In just over 10 weeks, police in Montgomery County, Maryland, have been called to respond to 48 reported assaults in the county’s public school system, more than the school system saw for the entire school year three years ago
In the latest incident Nov. 9, a 16-year-old student was arrested and charged as an adult for a stabbing attack in the parking lot outside Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich was asked whether he believed the removal of school resource officers, or SROs, has had an impact on school safety. Erlich stated that an increased number of violent incidents appears to be a nationwide, not just a regional issue.
“It’s happening in places that have SROs and it’s happening in places that don’t have SROs,” he said.
Pressed on the issue, Elrich responded. “It’s not clear that having an officer in the school would have prevented any of these” reported assaults.
Montgomery County schools spokesman Chris Cram said in a statement that the community engagement officers currently respond to schools following the removal of SROs. However, “any patrol officer will respond whether we request using the non-emergency number or via 911.”
“Our county police partners are great and committed to supporting schools, no matter what the need is,” Cram said.
Erlich was asked about a letter to the school community put out by Seneca Valley High School Principal Marc Cohen asking for area dads to help supervise students and whether that suggested the school system is struggling with safety.
“It may not be a bad idea to try to get parents to engage more in schools when they’re available,” he said. “I don’t know why the principal would ask for all dads. I think it would be just as appropriate to ask for more parents, regardless of gender.”
The county executive insist that the presence of a school resource officer in school buildings would not necessarily prevent fights or assaults from happening.
“I mean, when you look at some of these incidents, there’s no way an SRO would have been where they needed to be at the point an incident occurred.”
Elrich added that it was his understanding the school system is working on expanding mental health resources to students.
“I think the school system is taking this seriously, and I’m sure they’re also dealing with how fast they can hire everybody they need” he said, referring to ongoing plans to hire extra counseling staff.
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