The Maryland Officer of the Public Defender has commented in support of a Prince George’s County Board of Education resolution to end its contract with local law enforcement to place armed officers in the county’s school buildings.
While the Prince George’s County Board of Education considered this resolution during their last meeting, the Board concluded that additional time was needed to consider the proposal and secure additional input from the community. Dr. Alvin Thornton, the Chair of the Board, provided a community policing and public safety update to the Prince George’s County Council in which he explained that the matter will be referred back to the Board’s Operations, Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee to: “(1) evaluate and assess the role of school resource officers (SROs) in the school system and their alignment with PGCPS security services; (2) seek additional school administrator, staff, parent, student and community input regarding the use of SROs; and (3) work with the CEO to develop a report that will demonstrate how PGCPS budgets devoted to mental health, counselor, social services, special needs and related services are deployed strategically to achieved desired student development needs.”
The Officer of the Public Defender supported this resolution, stating that it’s seen “every day in our work, [that] the presence of SROs directly impact the school to prison pipeline, easily funneling black students into the criminal legal system. … [T]he reality we hear from our clients is that the mere presence of an armed, uniformed officer changes the learning setting and escalates simple disagreements, contributing to a culture of criminalization and antagonism in schools.”
This news comes as other school districts around the country are considering similar proposals. Earlier this month, Minneapolis Public Schools made the unanimous decision to terminate their contract with the Minneapolis Police Department and come up with a new plan for school safety by August. Portland Public Schools Superintendent also announced his decision to remove SROs from high schools.