2022 | Schools

County police plan to increase patrols around schools following Texas shooting

Elementary school shooting reignites local debate about police in schools

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Montgomery County police say they plan to increase patrols around schools as a precaution following one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history Tuesday at an elementary school in Texas.

In a statement released Tuesday night — just hours after news broke that a gunman had entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, killing at least 19 children and two adults — county police said community engagement officers will “be continuously checking on our schools to ensure the safety of our students.”

The Takoma Park Police Department posted on Twitter that its officers will increase patrols around schools and “monitor social media channels for any threats.”

Montgomery County Public Schools released a statement late Tuesday night, condemning the violence against children and calling on community members to end “the violence that has again, stolen our peace, and shortened young and innocent lives too soon.”

In an email to Bethesda Beat on Tuesday night, MCPS spokesman Chris Cram said “resources will be added as necessary” in schools to help students and staff members process the shooting. He said that includes the availability of counselors and psychologists. Employees may also use employee assistance program benefits, Cram said.

Almost immediately, news of the shooting reignited debates on social media about police officers’ role in school safety. In Montgomery County, the debate has been tense at times over the past two years as MCPS this year moved to remove school resource officers from buildings. In January, a student shot another student at Col. Zadok Magruder High School in Derwood, and by April MCPS had completed a review of its school safety measures, once again allowing officers to have limited availability in its schools.

As is often the case after school shootings, some took to social media Tuesday to say the Texas shooting highlights the need for law enforcement officers to be in schools so they can be available immediately if tragedy strikes. Others point to a lack of data about whether having police in schools helps prevent such incidents or aids in providing a more timely response to shootings. Other data shows that minority students are more likely to be arrested by officers in schools than other students.

In a statement Tuesday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said the shooting “could have been avoided” if national lawmakers had taken action on gun control measures following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six adults dead.

“Every time a tragedy like this happens there is outrage and calls for change, to curb the proliferation of guns. However, that outrage never turns into real action, so now, here we are again,” Elrich said in his statement. “ … We are heartbroken for this community’s loss. I hope that the sadness, anger, and frustration from today’s tragedy will bring action and legislation at the national level – thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

In a statement, the Montgomery County Council also called for more stringent gun laws at the national level to “limit easy access to firearms and firearm accessories that enable guns to fire faster and inflict more horrific injuries and death.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com