Former Alief ISD teacher asks Houston City Council for help to secure elementary school after attack

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A former Alief ISD teacher stood before Houston City Council on Tuesday afternoon pleading for help to build a fence at Best Elementary School.

"I didn't know what to do. I had asked for help and nobody was helping me," said Marie Cortes, as she explained why she was seeking assistance from Houston City Council members.

Cortes then recounted the trauma she experienced when a woman walked onto the playground, during recess, and attempted to abduct a student on Dec. 14, 2021.

"For the first time in my life, I didn't feel safe. I was scared. I didn't know what to do. What if this lady had a weapon?" Cortes told city council members.

The trespasser hit Cortes, knocked her phone to the ground and then grabbed a second student.

Fortunately, other teachers stepped in and no children were taken off the property. But in the months since this assault, Cortes says she has met individually with the school principal and Alief ISD administrators looking for solutions. None came.

Cortes said the stress led her to resign months later.

RELATED: Former Alief ISD teacher fights for elementary school's safety after trespasser tries to take kids

"From that day on, my life change completely. And I'm here to get help," she told council members and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Cortes is asking for one thing - a secured fence around the playground at Best Elementary School to replace the small chain-link fence that is broken and doesn't fully wrap around the play area.

Councilmember Edward Pollard, who represents District J, says he has been working to improve safety around the school. Which is near a popular prostitution spot on Houston's southwest side.

He declined to speak with ABC13 on camera, but during the council meeting addressed Cortes saying, "OK, so this seems like an Alief ISD issue that my office will look into working with you to coordinate with them."

Regarding the incident, Alief ISD sent the following statement:

"The playground at Best Elementary School was built by the SPARK School Park Program which develops community parks on public school grounds. Within the partnership agreement with SPARK Park, the park is to remain open to the public for public use after the school day. The district is working on a permanent solution."

"SPARK has no problem with AISD fencing the SPARK Park. SPARK requires that there be a pedestrian gate unlocked after the school day. On weekends, and holidays until dusk," SPARK Park's executive director Kathleen Ownby told ABC13.

"I mean if that was your child, wouldn't you want the protection there 24/7?" asked Cortes. "I still feel the butterflies because they said they will try to help me, they didn't say they're going to actually do it."

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