Role of police in Montgomery County schools will be reevaluated even after MOU is signed

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich expressed confidence in the process that’s produced a memorandum of understanding between the Maryland county’s public schools and the police department.

The document hasn’t been made public, but Elrich told reporters during an online briefing Wednesday that under the new agreement, police will not be patrolling the halls.

“They will not be enforcing internal discipline at all. They only get involved if they’re called out from where they are to deal with something that’s truly criminal,” Elrich said.

Elrich and Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard told reporters that there would be reviews of the community engagement officer, or CEO, program in schools.

“We still have to make sure that whatever agreement is signed and agreed to is what’s actually happening,” Stoddard said.

The previous MOU between the schools and police also included language barring police from enforcing school discipline, Elrich said, adding that “the superintendent’s been really clear that there are going to be consequences if it’s not done the way it’s supposed to be done.”

A year ago, Elrich called for removing police from school buildings. He has since shifted his position, voicing support for Superintendent Monifa McKnight’s plan for bringing officers, referred to as community engagement officers, back into school buildings on a limited basis.

Elrich and Stoddard cited the change in school conditions as part of the rationale for the change. Calls for law enforcement’s return to schools intensified following a shooting at Magruder High School in January left one student injured.

“We’ve seen some behaviors that we did not see pre-pandemic , so obviously that has created significant concerns within the school setting,” Stoddard said.

Stoddard also added that the school system has not been able to hire as many staff members to provide mental health services as they intended. Montgomery County schools have a goal of hiring 50 counselors and psychologists, but have so far hired 22, according to Stoddard.

“Once they do have other supports in the schools, we will again reevaluate what the CEO model looks like,” Stoddard said.

Both Elrich and Stoddard pushed back when pressed about whether there had been adequate public input and communication on the MOU.

“I got a transmission to me saying they were looking for council and county executive approval … they did have a diverse group of people involved” in providing comment, Elrich said.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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