Outside EA Lawhon Elementary in Pearland, it’s like any other school day.
Kids run off to start their day.
Parents wave goodbye.
Except the school got a new addition this year — a security guard.
The guard makes parent Stephanie Ottosen feel safer. It’s like a watchdog, she says. It keeps bad people away.
“Seeing a guy who you know is sitting there. He’s got a uniform now, he stands in the front when the kids walk in. He stands in the lunchroom. It is a deterrent. I think it is.”
For her, there’s some assurance from seeing a big guy at the front door. But she still doesn’t feel 100 percent secure.
“So it’s like, it’s great, but what’s he’s going to do — you know — if someone has a gun. Like, yell at them? Wave their arms? So in a sense, it’s like how much benefit is it to us?”
The Pearland School Board decided in February to try putting security guards at all the elementary and middle schools.
They already pay for police at the high schools.
Superintendent John Kelly says the security guards are not police officers. There’s a reason why they don’t have guns.
“We see them as an extra pair of eyes and ears. They can check doors. They can watch for suspicious vehicles, suspicious people, suspicious packages.”
Having security guards for lower grades is a pilot program. It’s part of other security measures like cameras and building upgrades. All this cost the district an extra $275,000 dollars.
Still, Kelly doesn’t want to give a false sense of security.
“People may not want to hear this, but ultimately you have to put your faith in the Lord and pray that these kinds of things won’t happen to your community and your schools, and that we in turn the people that work here will have enough wisdom as we learn from others to know what we can do to help.”
Parents in other parts of Houston think security guards could help — even if the idea troubles them.
Janet Kelly is a parent in Spring Branch. There district police officers are assigned to high schools. Patrol officers watch the other schools.
“It’s a little unsettling. You hate think our society has become what it is and we have to have security guards wandering the schools with weapons, but that’s the reality of the situation.”
Schools in Texas could have a new kind of reality.
This month, lawmakers sent a bill to the governor to train and arm school employees — similar to federal air marshals. If an individual school district decides to join, a teacher, coach or administrator could volunteer and pay for the training to become a marshal.
Some people interviewed in this report were drawn from the Public Insight Network, where listeners like yourself have signed up to be a resource for quality journalism. If you want to share your stories or expertise on a particular subject, sign up at kuhf.org/pin.