Advocates continue calls for Houston ISD police department reform

Houston ISD formed a police procedures committee last summer and hosted a work session in November with members of advocacy groups. However, one organizer said there has been little transparency in what has changed, and more systemic changes are still needed. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Houston ISD formed a police procedures committee last summer and hosted a work session in November with members of advocacy groups. However, one organizer said there has been little transparency in what has changed, and more systemic changes are still needed. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Houston ISD formed a police procedures committee last summer and hosted a work session in November with members of advocacy groups. However, one organizer said there has been little transparency in what has changed, and more systemic changes are still needed. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Image description
Pete Lopez, the chief of the Houston ISD Police Department, provided department data to officials at a police reform workshop in November 2020. (Designed by Anya Gallant/Community Impact Newspaper)
More than one year after a band of advocacy groups and Houston ISD students united to call on the district to reform the way it uses police on school campuses, some advocates said few changes have been made but are hopeful the conversation will continue into the new year.

The district formed a police procedures committee last summer and hosted a work session in November with members of advocacy groups such as One Houston and Disability Rights Texas. After the HISD board adopted the district’s 2021-22 budget at a June 10 meeting, Trustee Kathy Blueford-Daniels, who chairs the police committee, said some police procedures had been revised, including that all officers are now wearing body cameras.

However, Ashton Millet, an organizer with One Houston, said there has been little transparency in what has changed, and more systemic changes are still needed.

“Small procedural changes do not address the structural changes needed to make students feel safer in today’s HISD schools,” he said.

The coalition of advocacy groups, of which One Houston is part, has called for four key changes that would prohibit police from pepper-spraying students, using zip ties on students as handcuffs, arresting students on campus for nonviolent offenses, and questioning students about alleged crimes without a parent or guardian present.


“Changing policies to end the use of force and pepper spray puts a higher focus on [social-emotional learning] and restorative discipline practices, which benefit the whole student,” Millet said.

At the June school board meeting, Blueford-Daniels clarified officers do not use pepper spray, instead using a gel she said allows them to be more direct in use. She also emphasized the important role police serve for HISD. On June 9, officers responded quickly to an incident at North Forest High School when a student was shot in the hand by a driver who fled the area.

“As a parent and a grandparent, I would rather wash pepper spray out of my child’s eye than go to the cemetery,” she said.

Other HISD board members have spoken publicly about the need to take a closer look at policing. At the November workshop, HISD Police Chief Pete Lopez said his priorities include reducing the number of arrests and implementing programs that provide decision-making skills to students. The fight for reform will carry on into the new school year, Millet said.

“Overall, we look forward to working with the next administration and the board to implement policies to reduce police practices that physically and mentally harm students,” he said.


MOST RECENT

METRONext is the agency’s $3.5 billion bond approved by voters in November 2019, which aims to ease traffic congestion, add expansion to the METRO, and make accessibility and safety upgrades.
(Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
METRO Board approves $1.3 billion budget, discusses METRONext projects

The METRO board of directors met Sept. 21 to give an overview of the drafted budget as well as to receive public comments. It was unanimously approved at the Sept. 23 board meeting.

The Texas Secretary of State's office has launched an audit of 2020 election results in four of Texas’ largest counties: Harris, Dallas, Tarrant and Collin. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Texas Secretary of State's office announces audit of 2020 election results in Dallas, Collin, Tarrant and Harris counties

In a statement released Sept. 23, the office said it anticipates the state Legislature will fund the process.

Kyle City Council voted 6-1 and approved the new citywide trail master plan that will utilize 2020 bond election funds for trails that will help connect Austin to San Antonio. (Courtesy Pexels)
CI Nation roundup: Perfect Game coming to Cedar Park; Kyle City Council approves trail master plan to connect Austin to San Antonio and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 24.

Big League Dreams will reopen in December with updated turf, seating, nets, fencing, graphics and other upgrades. (Courtesy city of League City)
Big League Dreams to reopen in League City; New Caney ISD officials address student possession of a gun, and more top stories from Greater Houston

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Greater Houston area.

Comcast will award $1 million to small businesses owned by people of color in Fort Bend and Harris counties (Courtesy Fotolia)
Comcast Rise Investment Fund to award small business grants in Harris, Fort Bend counties

Comcast will award $1 million to small businesses owned by people of color in Fort Bend and Harris counties.

Several parents of New Caney ISD students spoke at the district's Sept. 20 board meetings about recent allegations that a student brought a firearm to Porter High School's Sept. 18 homecoming dance. NCISD Superintendent Matt Calvert stressed that no gunshots were fired at the event, and that the district is investigating the allegations. (Wesley Gardner/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI Nation roundup: Round Rock ISD trustees considered for censuring; New Caney ISD addresses allegations of student with gun at campus event and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 23.

The Texas Department of Transportation will close all northbound and southbound main lanes of I-69 Southwest Freeway at I-610 West Loop on Sept. 24-27 and from Oct. 1-4. (Courtesy Texas Department of Transportation)
I-69 at Loop 610 to be closed Sept. 24-27, Oct. 1-4

North and south main lanes will close Sept. 24 at 9 p.m. until Sept. 27 at 5 a.m. and then from Oct. 1-4

Lush RX, a boutique luxury med spa founded by registered nurse, Krystal Roney-Smith, is both Black-owned and female-run. (Courtesy Emex Photos)
Boutique luxury med spa announces opening in Bellaire

Lush RX offers trending Polydioxanone Threading, and lasers to remove unwanted hair or tattoos.

A new 300-room hotel has opened in Texas Medical Center’s Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus. (Courtesy Michael Anthony)
Hilton opens new dual-branded hotel at Texas Medical Center

The dual-branded Hilton Garden Inn and Home2 Suites by Hilton offers a total of 300 rooms.

Houston resident Marissa Hanson spoke on keeping tax rates low during the Harris County Commissioners Court public hearing on Sept. 21. (Emily Lincke/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County Commissioners propose tax cuts at cost of Harris Health System funding

On average, Harris County homeowners may see lower tax rates in the next year, but it will come at the cost of $17 million in funding for the county’s hospital district, according to Harris County Administrator David Berry.

A new collaborative joint research building is in the works that will be housed on Texas Medical Center’s new life science campus. (Courtesy Elkus Manfredi Architects)
Texas Medical Center: Fall 2023 completion announced for research hub for life science campus expansion project

A new research building is underway that will be located in the heart of a future 37-acre TMC3 campus.

Willow Waterhole Greenspace Conservancy’s annual MusicFest will return in 2021 for its eighth iteration. (Courtesy Willow Waterhole Greenspace Conservancy)
Willow Waterhole Greenspace Conservancy announces MusicFest return in 2021

Patrons can enjoy a free festival that will include a lineup of 57 musicians, a Haunted House Maze, Trunk or Treat and costume contests.