HOUSTON — A week after Houston Independent School District Superintendent Millard House II told the board HISD police were not prepared to handle an active shooter, the board voted to authorize $2.3 million in new rifles, shields, ammunition and two-way radios.
HISD Police Chief Pedro Lopez Jr. says the vote is major step forward in improving their ability to respond to an active shooter, but not everyone was on board with spending millions on more police gear.
"You can turn HISD into the military and still not prevent a single school shooting," trustee Elizabeth Santos. "Uvalde Police were locked and loaded to the teeth and prevented nothing."
Emotions were running high as HISD trustees debated for nearly 30 minutes on how best to keep students and teachers safe.
"The emotion comes when you think about looking at your child in a casket," said trustee Kathy Blueford-Daniels. "If the rifles will slow someone down to allow someone to come in and rescue children, I'm all for it."
The board was divided but ultimately approved the $2.3 million purchase.
"It's not about militarizing our campuses, it's about being prepared for the most difficult situations," said House.
Chief Lopez thanked the trustees for the vote providing critical gear. He says it only strengthens their ability to respond.
"Our officers are ready to enter and will enter in the case of an active shooter, but this decision tonight will help us get the tools when we come across those obstacles, to breach doors and break windows, we can get in and save lives faster than we could without the equipment," said Lopez.
The Houston Federation of Teachers also applauded the board's decision.
"From teachers I spoke to last night and this morning, there is a little sense of security now because they know at least someone has the ability to protect them against an intruder with an assault rifle," said Jackie Anderson, the president of the Houston Federation of Teachers.
Despite the vote, a majority of speakers Thursday night spoke out against spending millions on police gear. They told the board there are more pressing needs for school security.
The teacher's unions says this is a strong start.
"We can't stop and say that's not what we want," said Anderson. "None of us want that, but I want to know that my grandkids are going to come home safe from school everyday too."
District police say it could now take 3 to 6 weeks to get the supplies to HISD. It largely depends on the supply chain issue as districts across Texas are also purchasing similar equipment.