BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In a single meeting, school board members walked back their decision not to arm school resource officers and have now voted to support a bill that could drop the restrictions on when and where school police are allowed to carry their guns.
In an 8-2 vote Tuesday night, the Baltimore School Board reversed its decision on arming school resource officers, following hours of scattered testimony inside a packed board meeting.
Right now, the policy orders that school officers’ guns go under lock and key before the first bell.
Representatives from the Parent and Community Advisory Board. argued that is where they should stay.
“We hope you stand firm,” said Joseph Kane, with the Parent and Community Advisory Board.
Tuesday’s meeting delivered the latest twist in what’s been a month-long rollercoaster of controversy surrounding the school security.
In late January, the school board decided unanimously not to support a similar bill that could have armed school police.
But gunfire inside a West Baltimore high school jump-started the discussion again.
On February 8, a convicted felon walked into Frederick Douglass High School.
Court documents said 25-year-old Neil Davis came to the campus seeking revenge on a staff member for disciplining his sister, who is a student at the school.
He is now accused of shooting assistant basketball coach Michael Marks twice.
A brush with tragedy that put the topic back on the table.
The State delegate who sponsored the original bill is also behind this new proposed legislation. She withdrew the last version because of the lack of support in Baltimore schools. This vote was step one, and now it will go to the general assembly.
“We can’t stand idly back and let these criminals and individuals take over our schools,” said Jimmy Gittings, President of the City School Administrators Association. “You have the ability and the foresight to stop this,”
“Thankfully we get a second chance at this. Let’s get it right,” said Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, President of City Schools Police Union.
The school board’s vote effectively kills HB131, which would have overturned a previous prohibition on school police officers carrying guns in schools.
The NAACP released a statement through LDF Media saying LDF has joined Baltimore residents in being concerned about arming police three times in four months because they say black students will be hurt most by doing so.
“We understand that the school board is alarmed by the tragic incident at Frederick Douglass High School this month – we are too. But this vote is the latest in an unfortunate national pattern of addressing the complex problem of keeping students and staff safe with shortsighted non-solutions. Responses to school shootings require careful and dispassionate consideration, not knee-jerk reactions. Three school police officers were reportedly onsite during the violence at Frederick Douglass High School, and there’s no reason to believe the ability to use a firearm would have prevented the shooting. The Board had the opportunity to request a meticulous review of school safety measures – including visitor protocols – and promote the long-term security of Baltimore students and staff. Instead, they voted to expose the school community to more guns.”
“We will continue to highlight the unintended harm students, particularly those of color, may experience with an armed police force during school hours. We challenge the Board not to abandon their long-held beliefs in support of a reactionary bill that was overwhelmingly opposed only a few weeks ago. Baltimore students and school personnel deserve a forceful but narrowly-tailored response to the safety threats they face, and we hope lawmakers and school board commissioners alike will prioritize measures that will keep schools safe without inflicting harm.”