Bellaire High School sets new safety guidelines as students return after fatal shooting

BELLAIRE – Classes resumed Thursday at Bellaire High School after a shooting killed a 19-year-old student, identified as Cesar Cortes.

New safety guidelines

In the wake of the shooting, school officials decided to implement some new, more stringent safety rules on the campus.

Until further notice, all students will enter the building through a single-entry point, according to Bellaire High School Principal Michael McDonough.

This process began at 7:15 a.m. through the entrance on Maple Street at the Circle Drive. Upon entry, students were required to have their bags reviewed by the school’s administration.

“This means that all student backpacks, purses, gym bags and other bags must be opened by the student so that administrators can view the contents,” McDonough said.

Bellaire plans to have a regular class schedule, including all seven class periods. During lunch, the campus will be closed, and all students -- namely juniors and seniors who could previously leave for lunch -- will be required to remain on-site.

To support the students and staff, the Houston Independent School District is sending additional counselors. HISD police officers and school administrators will also be patrolling the campus.

“These are initial precautions and more long-term, sustainable changes are being developed by the school safety and security committee,” McDonough said. “I thank you for your continued support.”

Back to school...and reality

The line wrapped around the building Thursday morning as police directed students on the new protocol. Parents and students expressed feeling fear, sadness and frustration over what happened Tuesday.

“It’s not a normal day," said senior Avant’e Francis. “It’s never a normal day.”

“This line right here is very idiotic," said parent Frank Farrel. “It’s too late.”

Many students said it was a difficult day and a hard situation to get over. Luis Garcia, a senior, was friends with the victim and the shooter.

“One of them got shot and died at the hospital," Garcia said. “It really hurt, to be honest.”

Some parents expressed concern over HISD’s leadership, saying the district knew of concerns over weapons and school safety and did not act in time.

“I feel like the school dropped the ball because this isn’t the first time they found a gun on campus," said parent Viviana Ramirez. “It’s the fourth.”

Other students questioned just how effective the changes will be and how safe they are.

“I think it’s only going to be going on for like a week or two weeks and then back to normal...and back to the same stuff," Francis said.

Movements led by Students

Students Demand Action, a student-led group at Bellaire High School, are planning a demonstration and rally Friday at 3:30 p.m. at the HISD headquarters.

The group released a statement that said:

“We are rallying in front of HISD headquarters in response to their lack of transparency after multiple firearms were found on the Bellaire HS campus. Although the disturbing event of finding a lethal weapon on campus is not exclusive to Bellaire, it is at BHS that we found the lack of transparency surrounding this event to have fatal consequences. Bellaire’s chapter of Students Demand Action asked repeatedly for information regarding how the guns were acquired, if the guns were fired and whether the parents of the children carrying on campus were charged for their negligence. HISD refused to release the information. If HISD had used the charges brought against the parents as a deterrent for other parents who avoid safely storing their firearms, the shooter’s parents might have kept the gun out of his hands."

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