Education

Houston ISD approves funding for police equipment in case of active shooting situation

Equipment includes rifles, ballistic shields, bulletproof vests and ammunition for HISD officers.

Desks are set up six feet apart in the gym at Navarro Middle School.
Courtesy of Daniel Santos
File photo: Desks are set up six feet apart in the gym at Navarro Middle School.

The Houston ISD school board approved more than $2 million to purchase new police equipment Thursday night.

Equipment includes rifles, ballistic shields, bulletproof vests and ammunition for HISD officers. The board approved the equipment with a 6-3 vote.

Officials say they hope this will allow the department to be as prepared as possible in case of an active shooter situation.

The move comes after a summer of review and lessons learned from the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde where 19 students and two teachers were killed. Police were found to have waited an hour before confronting the gunman.

Earlier this month Superintendent Millard House II told board members that the district was not prepared for an active shooter event. But not everyone on the board thought more equipment was the right way to address the issue.

“My belief is still that more weaponry is not the answer,” said trustee Elizabeth Santos. “More guns have never made students safe. You can turn HISD into the military and still not prevent a single school shooting.”

But House said the decision is not about “militarizing” HISD campuses.

"This is about being prepared for the most difficult situations,” House said Thursday night. “But this is these are not routine items that would be carried around on campus on a daily basis. These are items that would only be utilized in special situations, that that would require them to be utilized.”

Some parents worry that having more police with guns will expose their children to even more danger.

During the meeting, some parents expressed their concerns of police interactions, particularly involving Black and brown students, and that it could actually increase violence rather than curb it.

Kourtney Rebel has a second grader at B.C. Elmore Elementary School and believes that the increased security will disproportionately impact minority students.

"I'm a Black mom in North Forest, And there’s always so many small things that our kids in our community are penalized over,” she said. “I’m very worried that this will be just like the war on drugs.”

Travis Fife, an attorney with the Civil Rights Project, echoed similar worries.

"Students are safest when they feel connected and have a genuine interest in the classrooms they’re in,” he said. “Given all of the crises affecting HSD – whether it’s the teacher shortages, or lack of availability of counselors – the time is to invest in those community based alternatives to policing that make students feel connected. … We know from decades of research and the district’s own data that police disproportionately negatively impact our black and brown students."

Other parents and students said the district should invest in mental health support, and instead have a holistic approach in schools.

Classes begin Aug. 22.

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