Schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland, have taken their first step in removing school resource officers from campuses after a call for police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
At a meeting Monday night, the county’s public school board heard a proposal to end their relationship with the Prince George’s County Police Department.
“I have before you today a preliminary proposal to terminate our relationship with Prince George’s Police Department to remove armed police officers from our public schools,” said the proposal’s author, Council member David Murray.
It would also earmark $5 million in the proposed budget for social workers, mental health professionals, counselors and academic interventionists.
Board member Belinda Queen voiced her support of the measure.
“It’s not saying police SROs (school resource officers) won’t be around in the community doing other things,” she said. “It’s just that we don’t need them in the school like we have them.”
Queen believes modern security equipment could be used to replace officers on campus while saving money in the long run.
“If somebody has a gun, we have to start making sure we have technology that thinks outside the box,” she said.
But board member Curtis Valentine disagreed, citing numerous reasons officers need to be in schools.
“My wife was assaulted by a student, and there needed to be police officers rather quickly,” he said. “I was happy there was someone there.”
The father of two children, ages 12 and 10, also believes the interaction with police officers students have in school will help them in the real world.
“I have seen first hand the connections SROs have had, particularly in developing relationships with students,” he said, “I would hope the relationship they have built as students would carry them through those interactions, so when my children see police officers around the county, they can speak.”
While the issue could come up for a vote as early as next week, there’s still a question over whether Maryland law will allow them to follow through if it passes.
The Maryland Safe to Learn Act requires adequate levels of law enforcement at all schools in the state.
For that reason, the proposal also asks the school district’s chief executive to come up with a plan that will allow for the removal of armed officers from schools while still fitting within the boundaries of the Maryland Safe to Learn Act.