Montgomery Co. lawmakers debate removing sworn resource officers from schools

A Montgomery County lawmaker nearly pushed through an initiative to make deep cuts to the Maryland county’s program that puts sworn police officers in schools.

County Council member Will Jawando said funding for the school resource officer program should be slashed because it has disproportionately impacted students of color.

“Over the last four years, of the students arrested by SROs, over half of them are Black students,” Jawando said. “Black students represent one-fifth of the population.”

During a Tuesday council meeting, Jawando proposed cutting 12 of the 23 school resource officers who are currently working for the county.

Lawmakers are looking for ways to save money and cut tens of millions of dollars from the budget because the coronavirus pandemic has strained local resources.

“The urgency to act is now,” he said. “I think we’re in a good situation to remove these positions.”

But the proposal failed on a 5-4 vote with some of Jawando’s colleagues saying the idea was inappropriate because the county’s school board and superintendent are actively studying the issue and deciding what should happen with the program.

They said it could blindside the local education leaders.

“For us to jump in and say, ‘We’re going to do it differently and not going to listen to you,’ I believe is incredibly disrespectful,” said Council member Craig Rice.

Council member Nancy Navarro said she didn’t understand “the sense of urgency” because “school is not in session.”

Jawando has been a vocal and frequent critic of having police officers stationed in schools. Earlier this month, he said the program should be completely eliminated because he believed the money would be better spent on school nurses and counselors.

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