Lathan: HISD identifying schools for metal detectors, other security changes

Houston Independent School District interim superintendent Grenita Lathan discussed several steps being taken to address security on the district’s campuses.

Word of these measures came after Lathan and other HISD officials met with students at Bellaire High School.

Cesar Cortez, 19, was shot and killed Jan. 14 at the campus, officials said. A fellow 16-year-old student is accused of shooting Cortez.

“I understand that this is scary. I’m a parent, my child attended this school,” Lathan said.

Lathan said the district is considering installing metal detectors at 105 middle and high schools. While no final decision has been made, Lathan said HISD has already identified 20 campuses, based on a high number of incidents, that would be the first to receive the devices. While she declined to name the 20 campuses since the decision is not final, Lathan said HISD has already plotted out costs.

“(It will cost) $5,000 to $6,000 per unit. When we think about a unit or how many units a campus would need, it could be anywhere from 2 to 4,” Lathan said.

In addition to metal detectors, HISD is also considering whether to institute a “clear backpack” policy. Lathan said she has also ordered every campuses safety committee to reconvene, review all policies and procedures and report back to HISD headquarters by end of month.

“Procedures that they have to review are before school, entrances, lunch and after-school protocols,” Lathan said.

Lathan said in addition to meeting with student leaders at Bellaire, she will meet with campus leaders at all 45 high schools. Bishop James Dixon with Community of Faith applauded the district’s work to seek and include both student and parent input in improving campus safety.

“The best thing possible to keep a campus safe are what the students do,” Dixon said. “The students at this school, like other campuses, are intellectually engaged, emotionally engaged and what to be physically involved.”

Lathan said the district will soon announce a platform for parents to give their input and suggestions.

HISD police Chief Paul Cordova also called on parents to do their part in helping keep guns off campus.

“The overwhelming majority of the guns that we’re finding are coming on campus, we’re finding originated in the home,” Cordova said.

Another area Lathan said needs improvement is that of creating environments where students feel comfortable reporting potential problems. Lathan said a culture of reporting can vary from campus-to-campus and from community-to-community.

“We still have to do a lot around educating our parents and our students and our staff too. If they see something, say something.,” Lathan said.