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Prince George's County considers taking armed officers out of schools

A school board budget committee passed the measure Monday afternoon. The legislation also calls for more money to be spent on mental health professionals.

HYATTSVILLE, Md. — Effort is underway to remove Prince George's County's armed police officers from local schools.

The Prince George's County School Board budget committee passed a proposal Monday that would eliminate the school system's contract with the Prince George's County Police Department. 

On top of that, according to PGCPS school board member David Murray, Superintendent Dr. Monica Goldson would be forced to identify $5 million in funding in the school system budget to spend on social workers and mental health counselors.

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"Social workers, mental health counselors and early reading interventions, we know that when we put our resources there our outcomes for our students dramatically improve," PGCPS school board member Edward Burroughs said. 

Murray said the desire to pass this bill was helped, in part, by current events.

"We do have a lot of momentum," he said. "It's really thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement. It's thanks to young people and young people of color."

Murray and Burroughs say cutting armed officers from schools would save the county $3 million. They add the school system would also still have unarmed security guards on hand.

However, the plan does have opponents.

PGCPS school board member Curtis Valentine believes having officers in schools benefits the school system in multiple ways. First, he said he believes it helps students become acclimated to the police.

"Particularly in building relationships with students," he said. "When my children see police officers around the county, they can speak, and they know my children by name."

Valentine also said he believes officers in schools can address situations quicker.

"There are instances where we do need security at our schools rather quickly and response times are impactful," he said.

Still, parents like Samiyah Lee feel more needs to be done to address the mental health needs of PGCPS students.

"In the long run, the funding needs to go to counselors," she said. "That's the bottom line."

A full school board vote on the issue could come as early as Thursday.

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A Prince George's County Schools spokesperson said the school system declined to comment on the matter at this time.

Prince George's County Police Department released the following statement:

"We welcome a dialogue with the School Board regarding it's concerns about School Resource Officers (SROs). These concerns have not been voiced previously. As part of that conversation, it's important to note that we have a presence in our schools in accordance with Maryland law, the "Safe to Learn Act" enacted in 2018, but had been working with the schools prior to this and placed SRO's in the schools before the state mandate regarding adequate law enforcement coverage. The state mandate was enacted in response to a host of issues, to include school shootings. Every one of the Department's SROs receives 40 hours of specialized School Resource Officer training. The Prince George's County Police Department funds the SROs in the schools at an annual cost of more than 4 million dollars to the Police Department's budget. The school system does not reimburse the Department."

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