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Montgomery County Council debates competing bills on whether to keep school resource officers

A previous bill was introduced in November that would prohibit the assignment of Montgomery Co. police officers to serve as SROs in county schools.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — A rivaling School Resource Officer bill sponsored by Councilmembers Craig Rice and Sidney Katz is up for public discussion Thursday in Montgomery County that aims to keep SROs in schools. There is a separate bill being discussed by the council that aims to end the SRO program altogether.

The newly proposed bill said it aims to build positive law enforcement relationships within schools and would require SROs to undergo enhanced training. According to the bill, the chief of police would assign an SRO to a school upon the request of the superintendent of schools, and Montgomery County Public Schools would also govern the assignment of the school resource officers.

“I honestly thought it was really tone-deaf and I was kind of disappointed to see that,” MCPS senior Avery Smedley said of the bill.

The bill would continue the assignments of 23 police officers to work as school resource officers with the consent of MCPS and with enhanced training.

“I don't want this to be minority students versus white students issue, because it's really not," Smedley said. "SROs don't reduce crime for anyone and then it happens to disproportionately affect students of color." 

Councilmember Will Jawando is sponsoring the bill to remove SROs. He said on average over the last four years 50% of students arrested in Montgomery County Public Schools by SROs were Black, even though Black students represent just under 20% of the student population.

RELATED: Montgomery County Council discusses ending SRO program in schools

At a February public hearing on the bill to end SROs, county documents show all but two of the 33 speakers at the public hearing supported the bill, many of them were students.

The Montgomery County police union argues police don’t make arrests based on race and has pushed for a chance to improve the program.

“I staunchly oppose school resource officers,” MCPS middle school parent Tiffany Kelly said. “What I’m hearing is that the majority that’s already heard all the time are concerned about school shootings. My fear is a little different. I'm raising a Black boy who will become a Black man, who sees Black men killed, Black men assaulted, and hears the stories of what law enforcement has done to people that look like him. How do you think my son will feel going into a school with the people that have inflicted violence on his community? No one talks about that.”

RELATED: PGCPS School Board votes to keep school resource officers

Ahead of Thursday’s public hearing more than 30 people submitted online testimony, including a teacher who said more than 200 MCPS staff members opposed the bill that would keep SROs in schools.

“We cannot claim 'Black Lives Matter' or 'all means all' while continuing a program that causes emotional, physical, and academic harm to Black and POC students,” testimony sent by Neha Singhal read.

The Maryland Safe to Learn Act, passed in 2018, requires school districts to have school resource officers in high schools or adequate law enforcement coverage.

MCPS is charged with evaluating aspects of the current SRO program and is due to present its findings in May.

RELATED: Virginia teacher wants school police funding reallocated to mental health

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