HOUSTON — Houston Independent School District trustees voted Thursday night in favor of an agenda item that is designed to better equip officers during active shooter situations.
The $2.3 million budget will be used to buy rifles and ballistic shields for each of the HISD Police Department's 200 or so officers. About half of that money is supposed to go toward purchasing two-way radios.
The board went into executive session Thursday night to discuss school security. When they returned, trustee Dani Hernandez proposed a motion to postpone the vote until next week. She asked for more specifics on which HISD schools would be impacted and protected. That motion was turned down.
After an emotional public debate, the board voted to approve the funding for the purchase.
"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 (Poice) 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 said.
Superintendent Millard House II told the board this is the first step in beefing up and reviewing school security. HISD is also bringing in outside groups to do an extensive school security and safety audit. The audit will help them know what other steps they need to take to ensure schools are safe.
After the vote, HISD Police Chief Pedro Lopez Jr. told KHOU 11 News the gear should arrive within three to six weeks depending on supply chain issues. He said the vote definitely makes all students safer.
"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."
HISD said it reviews its school shooting response plan after each school shooting.
Since the board has been out for most of the summer, Thursday was the first chance to vote on the upgrades.
House said the upgrades are necessary in order to protect against today's kind of active shooter -- ones who may be armed with automatic weapons.
Last week, he said he didn't believe HISD was prepared for that kind of situation.
“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,” House said Wednesday when discussing the budget item.
House said that since the mass school shooting in Uvalde, some HISD campuses have gotten upgraded fencing. He also said HISD is in the final phase of its safety audit for the Texas Education Agency. That audit includes checking doors and campus exteriors.