MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — School resource officers, also known as SROs, have become a controversial topic as racial equity and police reform movements ramp up across the country.
Bill 46-20, if passed, would prohibit school resource officers in Montgomery County Public Schools.
It’s not the first time the Montgomery County Council has discussed the role of officers in schools, but this time councilmembers Will Jawando and Hans Riemer want to sign the removal of officers into law.
If passed, they would reallocate funds from the SRO program to student mental heath and restorative justice programs instead. Jawando cites disproportionate arrests of students of color as a main reason behind the bill.
“If you look at the last four years, 50 percent of the students arrested are black students, even though they comprise 20 percent of our student population. There’s a disproportionality in in our Latino student community, as well,” said Jawando in a press briefing Tuesday.
Jason Melara, a former MCPS student, recalled what he says was one of several traumatic experiences with school resource officers in Montgomery County.
Speaking through a translator, he told reporters officers said to him, “We don’t understand you. Look at you. You don’t know how to express yourself. Look at you, you’re good for nothing. You Hispanic piece of ****.”
When asked about the bill earlier this week, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith didn’t offer an opinion.
“I don’t really have an opinion about the legislation. We are doing a study on the use of school resource officers and changes we would recommend in the program, if the program continues,” said Smith on Monday.
During a heated discussion at the bill’s introduction Tuesday, other councilmembers stressed the need to wait for the results of the school system’s study before voting on the legislation.
“Even though I believe in the program, if the school system says they don’t want it, then we shouldn’t have it. There’s no question. Conversely, if they do, we should find a way to make it safe and effective,” said Craig Rice.