Houston ISD trustees hear calls to ban police use of force, invest in counseling

Advocates from the Safe and Supportive Schools Collaborative were invited to share recommendations and concerns about the HISD Police Department's role at a Nov. 10 board workshop. (Adobe Stock photo)
Advocates from the Safe and Supportive Schools Collaborative were invited to share recommendations and concerns about the HISD Police Department's role at a Nov. 10 board workshop. (Adobe Stock photo)

Advocates from the Safe and Supportive Schools Collaborative were invited to share recommendations and concerns about the HISD Police Department's role at a Nov. 10 board workshop. (Adobe Stock photo)

Advocates for school police reform called on Houston ISD trustees at a Nov. 10 board workshop to take steps to ban the use of force in the district's police force, reallocate funds toward mental health resources and adopt more transparency around school discipline.

"After George Floyd's death, we've seen over 30 large urban districts around the country take up this task of rebalancing their investment in counselors and not police," said Dustin Rynders, attorney with the nonprofit firm Disability Rights Texas. "And so the real model policy is in your budget too."

Rynders was one of four presenters from the Safe and Supportive Schools Collaborative invited to share recommendations and concerns about thw HISD Police Department's role in student discipline.

In addition to banning use of force in all situations unless violence or injury has occured, the group also said the district should hire more counselors to reach a ratio of one for every 250 students rather than the current level of one for every 1,000. It also called for schools to adopt a restorative justice approach to conflict.

"There is little evidence that police presence in schools increases or improves school safety," said Kara Dunovant, a representative of the Earl Carl Institute, which coordinated the collaborative. "On the contrary, police presence increases the number of minor behavioral problems that are referred to the police."


However, despite the research that the group has been able to conduct by collecting data from other school districts, more transparency is needed for the public to understand how police interact with students, said Andrew Harrison, director of the School-to-Prison Pipeline Project with Texas Appleseed.

"We're really focused on data-driven research and public policy analysis," he said, explaining that the groups file public information requests to study police activities. "We've not had as much had success in that regard, receiving information from HISD."

Records requests regarding police activities are referred to the state attorney general over concerns that its release poses a safety and privacy risk, he said.

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said she was unaware of the requests and would need to look into the matter.

HISD police chief Pedro Lopez, a former Houston police officer, told trustees that he agreed that the district's 192 police officers should do what it can to reduce arrests among students. He pointed to increasing use of diversion programs for drug incidents as an example of discouraging arrests.

"I'll agree with everyone that we need to stop the school-to-prison pipeline, but the police department alone can't do it," Lopez said.

The board did not consider any specific action items at the workshop. Trustees discussed holding additional workshops and discussions, but a timeline was not established.
By Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.


MOST RECENT

Dozens of clinics throughout the county offer COVID-19 testing services. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)
COVID-19 testing locations remain open in Montgomery County and more local news

Read the latest Houston-area business and community news.

Dalia Browning Stokes and Bobby G. Bayless in their store
Owners of Upper Kirby shop, Christmas Rocks, keep traditions alive

The store is run out of the first floor of the couple's law office.

Several local markets offer ways to support small businesses and artisans this holiday season. (Courtesy Pexels)
Check out these Small Business Saturday and holiday markets in Houston

Here are a few ways to support local businesses as the holiday shopping season kicks off.

Heading into Thanksgiving, Texas Medical Center continues to report uptick in hospitalizations

The total number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Texas Medical Center facilities has increased by more than 50% over two weeks.

The Harris County Justice Administration Department is working to release final reports and launch pilot programs in early 2021. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Harris County Justice Administration Department makes headway on countywide criminal justice studies

The department is working to release the final versions of several studies and launch pilot programs with local law enforcement groups in early 2021.

The Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce Foundation's food drive this year will support the Montrose Center, filling boxes of food for LGBTQ seniors. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Greater Houston LGBT Chamber hosts holiday food drive

The food drive will accept donations in person Dec. 4 as well as online.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for the state Nov. 23 for a vaccine he said could be available as soon as December. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announces COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

The vaccine could start being distributed "as early as next month," according to a Nov. 23 news release.

"Remember, we don't want to invite COVID-19 to the dinner table," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a Nov. 23 press conference urging caution amid rising COVID-19 positivity rates. (Screenshot via ABC13)
Mayor Sylvester Turner urges caution heading into Thanksgiving holiday

Houston officials also said 333 health providers had been identified as future vaccine delivery sites.

Good Dog Houston
Good Dog serves its last hot dog at Montrose location

Guests who can show proof of Montrose residency can get a discount at the Heights location through the end of 2020.

protestor in crowd with who police the police sign
New report: Houston police oversight board lagging behind major Texas cities

The report suggested having no oversight board has a better effect on public trust than having a dysfunctional board.

Nell Stewart
East Montrose neighborhood plans parade for 100-year-old resident Nell Stewart

"Well, we treasure her, so wanted to do something," said resident Julie Young.