Houston ISD trustees walk back proposed $3 million for metal detectors

The Houston ISD board meets twice monthly, once for agenda review and once for official business, at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Houston ISD board meets twice monthly, once for agenda review and once for official business, at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Houston ISD board meets twice monthly, once for agenda review and once for official business, at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)

Almost a month after a student was killed in a shooting at Bellaire High School, the Houston ISD board of trustees on Feb. 13 pulled back on a proposal to expedite the use of metal detectors across the district, instead asking for more discussion and research on effective safety strategies.

Trustee Elizabeth Santos proposed an amount of $100,000 instead of the initial $3 million to replace or update existing equipment, primarily hand-held detectors used by district police officers. The reduced amount was approved by the trustees in a 8-1 vote.

"I'm very conflicted about this," Santos said. "Is this $3 million for metal detectors the best use of taxpayer dollars?"

The item was originally proposed as an expansion to an existing contract for metal detector equipment to help expedite the purchase of additional equipment if and when it was recommended as a safety strategy, interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said.

In the weeks after the Bellaire shooting, Lathan had said the district was prepared to roll out the metal detectors by the end of the school year.


"I have not made a decision to recommend (metal detectors)," she told the board Feb. 13.

After meeting with community members and students, Lathan acknowledged that there were several other ways that security concerns could be addressed, including adding more social workers and police officers throughout the district.

"All of us have various opinions about what will provide more safety features," she said. "But what we heard overwhelmingly, it is about relationships, staff numbers, certain qualified staff numbers."

Several trustees repeated concerns that the metal detectors were a reactionary response to the Bellaire shooting, which is being considered an accident by the Harris County district attorney.

"My concern with this item is that it’s so easy to try to put a metal detector out there, right, as a quick fix and I want to be sure we're just really thoughtful," said trustee Anne Sung, a graduate of Bellaire High School. "Once we have a more comprehensive plan ... I would welcome that for an additional amendment here."

The item could return for another contract extension at another time.
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By Matt Dulin

Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.


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