2021 | Schools

With no police in schools next year, work on alternate plan continues

County executive has proposed ‘community’ model

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There will be no police stationed in Montgomery County schools when the next academic year begins, the district’s school board confirmed on Tuesday.

Instead, planning is underway on an alternate program to provide “adequate local law enforcement coverage,” as required by state law.

The school board on Tuesday reviewed a brief report from a committee it created a year ago to analyze whether its school resource officer (SRO) program should be continued, modified or ended.

The report shared some community feedback the district has received and some recommendations about how to improve the program. But it was not as comprehensive as some district leaders and community members expected.

“The decision (about the program’s future) was taken from us,” board member Pat O’Neill said, a sentiment echoed by other members.

“The decision about SROs immediately in the future of MCPS is out of the Board of Education’s hands,” O’Neill said. “But it’s time for us to really, now that everyone is on board, or moving in that direction, to really fight for the resources that we need to support our children in the buildings.”

In the months following the start of MCPS’ review, county officials also took up the issue.

This year, in the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich removed funding for SROs. Instead, he proposed a “community” model, in which police officers could respond to crises at schools from their beats in the surrounding community.

In late April, Elrich was joined by representatives from the school district, health department, police department and County Council to announce a new initiative aimed at “rethinking and reshaping public safety in our schools” and providing mental health support to students.

Elrich said at the time that the committee will work to identify the needs of students and staff members and develop memorandums of understanding with MCPS, the Department of Health and police department, to “codify” and define employees’ roles and responsibilities.

An interim report is expected by June 15, Elrich said, and a final report with recommendations of changes is due by Sept. 30.

The initiative will be complemented by one County Council Members Will Jawando and Craig Rice announced this month, also focused on determining what social-emotional support that local students need in place of armed police in schools.
The school board will wait for the reports and recommendations from both groups before finalizing its plan for a program to replace SROs.

“What we will be doing is taking a look at those recommendations and seeing how we can use those to formulate whatever program we come up with — and we do have to come up with some program,” school board President Brenda Wolff said, alluding to a state requirement mandating that schools provide “adequate local law enforcement coverage.” “We will be redoing the (memorandum of understanding with the local police departments), and we don’t know what that will look like yet. We do know SROs will not be in school buildings.”

She added that whatever new program is established should be data-driven and reviewed annually.