More than two dozen people spoke both for and against a bill that would remove police officers from Montgomery County, Maryland, public schools.
A virtual public hearing was held Thursday night in front of the Montgomery County Council.
The bill would stop the police department from deploying officers to schools. There are currently 23 assigned to various schools across the county.
“We know that making our schools safer does not begin in handcuffs,” said Matt Post, a Sherwood High School graduate and former board of education member.
Many students and parents in support of the move are calling for mental health and social workers instead.
One of bill’s sponsors, Council member Will Jawando, said that over the last four years, 50% of students arrested in local schools were Black, even though Black students represent under 20% of the student population.
Former Montgomery County schools graduate and current parent Stephanie Joseph is a public defender and represents students who are arrested by school resource officers. She said the officers cause traumatic events for children and teens.
“They cause harm and make our schools less safe,” Joseph said.
Those against the bill said the officers are there for a reason.
“SROs provide mentoring, tutoring and positive intervention in the lives of students,” said Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney George Simms.
Former council member Phil Andrews said that many principals support school resource officers staying in schools.
“Banning SROs would increase response times and decrease situational awareness when public safety emergencies occur at schools,” Andrews said.