‘Don’t have a lot of confidence’: HISD leaders raise security concerns; police chief says team is ready, but more equipment needed

HOUSTON – The superintendent of Houston Independent School District expressed security concerns that its police force needs to be better prepared for the following school year.

In wake of the Uvalde school massacre that killed 19 elementary students and two teachers -- many districts are giving their security plans an intense examination and upgrades.

The HISD Police Chief Pedro Lopez Jr. said his team would not be ready if an active shooting event were to happen at this moment. He told KPRC 2 more equipment is needed and its needed soon. Heading into the school year, districts are putting a magnifying glass on their security plans.

HISD officials held a meeting Thursday to discuss their agenda for the school year. A big item on the table? HISD has requested for new equipment to ensure that their officers will be prepared and respond quickly to any potential school shooting: 200 rifles, 200 ballistic shields, 50 rifle shields and rifle ammo.

“What I do know is that if there was an active shooter in HISD, this department is not prepared,” said HISD Superintendent, Millard House II.

“I’m confident of the alert training that our officers received. But I don’t have a lot of confidence in preparing our officers to encounter a suspect without the proper equipment,” Lopez said.

He emphasizes the need to train.

“You need to learn how to maneuver those doors, how to overcome breaching those doors,” Lopez said. “And, we don’t have that equipment in order to do that. An example is that, we all seen that horrible video and scenes in Uvalde, when you have officers standing there with the shields that didn’t take any action. And that was because of a lack of preparation and training on behalf of those officers.”

Now, the chief says something needs to be done.

“So, the equipment that I’m requesting is to provide additional training to teach our officers how to breach the doors, how to use those shields in order to quickly enter that room and neutralize the suspect. And of course, save our students and our staff members,” Lopez said.

The district said the discussion was specifically referring to a potential situation like Uvalde’s. They said its current safety protocol meets TEA standards. It also said they are checking all the doors locks -- increasing their video capabilities, upgrading fences and more.

The actual board meeting will be held on Aug. 11.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said they city of Houston will step in to augment and support all school districts in the Houston and work with the limited resources.

“Reality is, that there are a lot of schools, elementary, junior high, high schools within HISD,” Turner said. “They have a limited force, so to expect them to cover everyone of their schools with the limited resources that they have it’s going to be difficult.”

He said this is the time to coordinate to ensure the safety of students and staff of all schools. Turner said its up to the state to provide additional steps to make the security top priority by repealing House Bill 1927 and increase the age of people that can purchase a firearm from 18 years old to 21 years old.

“We have way too many guns that the legislature still needs to repeal House Bill 1927, no permit, no training required. That needs to be repealed,” Turner said. “On the local end, we will make the safety and security of our children and every school throughout the city of Houston a top priority.”

About the Authors:

Award-winning journalist, mother, YouTuber, social media guru, millennial, mentor, storyteller, University of Houston alumna and Houston-native.