Montgomery County students, parents weigh in on school resource officers

Parents and students voiced their concerns and support for school resource officers before the Montgomery County Board of Education as Maryland’s largest school system reviews whether the policing program should continue.

Kelly Ji is a junior at Thomas Wootton High School and spoke Tuesday night during an online public hearing, calling for the removal of the school resource officer program on behalf of the Asian American Progressive Student Union.

Ji said the program does not promote racial equality and unfairly targets black and brown students.

“They are demonized and over-policed by SROs. The same for other students of color,” Ji said, pointing out implicit biases within the program.

Claire Gelillo, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School and the president of Montgomery County’s Students for Change organization, also supported ending the program.

“In our organizing efforts, it has become abundantly clear that the voices and experiences of students, particularly the Black, brown and disabled students that are disproportionately harmed by the criminalization of young people in school, do not hold the weight in this decision-making process,” Gelillo said.

Gelillo added that her organization would like to see the county reevaluate how it engages with students and families impacted by having police officers in schools.

Kim Kamensky is the Damascus cluster coordinator for the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations. She said she’d like to see the continued staffing, funding and support for the county’s SRO program, arguing that the program promotes diversity and a safe learning environment.

“The program focuses on fair and impartial policing, conflict resolution, de-escalation and building rapport with students and youth.”

The board will accept testimony from the public through March 25.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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