New HISD board members sworn in, discuss Bellaire High School shooting

Board considers additional school safety measures

HOUSTON – Two days after the shooting death of a Bellaire High School student, new school board members are sworn in at the Houston Independent School District.

The board is now having to answer questions about how a gun made it onto a school campus and what it can do to prevent future shootings.

A newly elected and emotional Kathy Blueford-Daniels called for a moment of silence to honor 19-year-old Cesar Cortes. He was shot Tuesday when a fellow JROTC member at Bellaire High School brought a gun to school. Classmates said the 16-year-old student showed the firearm to classmates, pointing it at them until Cortes was shot in the chest.

Cortes later died.

The 16–year-old who brought the gun to school was charged with manslaughter.

“Everybody wants to look and see and point a finger, and we have to all take some responsibility,” Blueford-Daniels said. “Parents don’t search children’s room, because the question should be, where did the gun come from? No, it’s not appropriate, obviously, for it to be at school, but we have to look inside ourselves and ask how did this child have access to a gun?”

Blueford-Daniels spoke as a board member and also as the mother of a son gunned down in 2006.

“I know what those parents and that family are going through,” Blueford-Daniels said. “It’s a life-long verdict of having to mourn your child for the rest of your days.”

Blueford-Daniels and the all-female board will have to decide on additional safety measures this year as they form a state-mandated safety committee.

(“It’s) based on threat assessment that’s based on a plan communicating with parents,” said board member Anne Sung. “That includes a mental health component.”

Sung said individual principal and campus would be able to propose added security measures, like metal detector or more mental health resources.

“We don’t want to perpetuate the school to prison pipeline, so we don’t all of the sudden want to put up metal detectors and more police at a school,” said new board member Judith Cruz. “I don’t think that is really getting to the heart of the matter.”

Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan did not weigh on security, as she declined to comment.