Trustees with the Houston Independent School District (HISD) recently approved a plan to equip its roughly 200-strong force of officers with rifles and other gear in an effort to improve school security in light of recent mass shootings.
During an executive session on August 11 to discuss school security issues, the board passed a $2.3 million budget to purchase rifles, ballistic shields and two-way radios for the district’s police department.
Debates of the funding became heated.
“Emotion comes when you think of looking at your child in the casket and the parents who weren’t able to show their children because they needed closed caskets. If the (police) chief will have enough ammunition to slow down someone coming in, if the rifles will slow someone down to allow them to come in and rescue children, I’m all for it,” trustee Kathy Blueford-Daniels told KHOU11.
Superintendent Millard House II said the funding is the first step in improving school security. The second step will be an audit from outside groups to assess the schools’ overall preparedness for active shooting scenarios.
HISD Police Chief Pedro Lopez Jr. said that the gear will arrive in three to six weeks.
“The trustee’s decision gave us the ability to improve our preparation in order to respond to an active shooter situation,” the chief told KHOU11 in an interview.
“It was something that we needed, that we desperately needed in order to make our campuses safer and keep our students safe,” he continued.
The chief said that the budget would give officers the tools to overcome obstacles in the event of a mass shooting.
“There was a misconception we were not prepared — we are prepared, our officers are ready and will enter the school and classroom in case of an active shooter, an event we never want to happen,” Lopez said. “This decision tonight will help us get the tools necessary when we come across the obstacles, we can breach the door, break the windows and get in and save lives faster than we could without the equipment.”
House affirmed that the district reviews its security situation after every school shooting.
In the wake of the shooting in Uvalde, several HISD campuses paid for upgraded fencing. HISD campuses are also in the final phase of a safety audit by the Texas Education Agency, which checks doors and campus exteriors.
Following the tragedy in Uvalde, House said the district needs more to improve its safety measures.
“There are very few school systems … ISD police departments … that are prepared at that level. My belief is our officers, our students, our community, our staff, deserve the best preparation as we look forward to the future.”
Other schools across the country are following suit and equipping their school resource officers with automatic weapons, such as in Brevard, County, Florida, and Madison, County, North Carolina.