Texas School Safety: Top Grade School Gets Secure Fence To Separate Playground From Known Prostitution Corridor

HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) — An elementary school playground along a known prostitution corridor in southwest Houston finally has a new secure fence.

“When I heard the news of the construction of the fence, I cried. I couldn’t hold back my tears,” said Marie Cortes, who has good reason to be moved by the new wrought iron fence from Best Elementary School.

“I didn’t believe it until I came over, and I grabbed it and touched it,” she said.

Just a few days ago, only a broken chain link fence, which didn’t even connect, was all that separated the children on the playground from the sidewalk where the unscrupulous activity happened all day.

Cortes, a former first-grade teacher at the school, says upgrading might seem like an obvious solution, but nothing was straightforward.

She began her fight to improve campus security in December 2021 when an intruder entered the playground during recess, grabbed a child and punched Cortes as she tried to intervene. Cortes reached for his cell phone, but the strange woman snatched it from his hand.

SEE RELATED: Former Alief ISD teacher fights for elementary school safety after intruder tries to take kids away

“The students were screaming. I ran to save the girl. I got between them and the lady hit my right arm,” Cortes told an Alief ISD school board meeting in April.

Cortes said other teachers intervened and students were rushed inside the school, but not before the stranger was able to grab a second student.

In tears, her mother also addressed the council in April and told district leaders that her daughter’s arm had been injured due to the force teachers had to use to free the first-grader from the intruder.

Cortes immediately emailed Alief ISD management after the December incident, but said she never received a response, leading her to speak out publicly during the school board meeting in April. She says nothing had changed at school four months after the incident.

SEE ALSO: Former Alief ISD teacher asks Houston City Council to help secure elementary school after attack

She attended a Houston City Council meeting, pleading with the city to intervene, saying, “Since that day my life has completely changed and I’m here for help.”

After reaching out to ABC13 for help three months later, Cortes said she finally felt heard.

“No one wants to experience or hear a story where your child was abducted or taken to a school,” she said.

Although the new fence work is not complete, Alief ISD says this wrought iron fence installation will be ready to protect the children of Best Elementary by the first day of the fall semester.

“One of the kids said to me (Monday): ‘I can come to recess now and I don’t have to worry.’ I said, “Yes, that’s all. We don’t want you to worry,” Cortes said.

Now a student advocate, Cortes hopes her story will motivate other students, parents, guardians and teachers to push for changes on campus to ensure children learn in safe environments.

“You have the power to speak up and be heard,” she said. “When you see a problem, fix it. Speak with the leaders. If (the leaders) can’t hear you, escalate and level up, even if you have to go to the mayor’s office to help you.”

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Harold B. McConnell