Baltimore school board votes against arming officers in schools

The school board voted unanimously to prevent officers from carrying weapons in school during the day


Christina Tkacik
The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore City school board voted unanimously to oppose a measure that would have allowed school police officers to carry weapons during the day.

The school board’s vote effectively kills HB31, which would have overturned a previous prohibition on school police officers carrying guns in schools.

Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said she would be withdrawing the proposed legislation from the General Assembly.

“I can’t move a bill that doesn’t have the support of the school board and the mayor,” she said. “The votes wouldn’t be there.”

The 10-0 opposition vote took place at a meeting Tuesday night at school headquarters on North Avenue after a lively public forum in which students, parents and members of the police union voiced their opinions both in favor and against the bill, each side citing data and other evidence to bolster their arguments.

The roughly 90 city schools police officers are allowed to carry their service weapons while patrolling the exterior of school buildings before and after school hours. But they are required to store their weapons in a secure location during the school day.

Another bill that would have allowed school police officers to be armed inside schools failed during the General Assembly session in 2015.

Some of those who opposed the bill discussed problems in the school police force, which falls under the Baltimore Police Department.

“The SROs are under federal consent decree,” said Kimberly Humphrey from the ACLU of Maryland.

Parent Melissa Schober said that of 90 arrests made by school officers, 89 of the people arrested had been black.

Others said the presence of an armed police officer had done little to prevent the deadliest school shootings in the past.

But those in favor of the measure — including representatives from the police union — touted what they argued was the force’s positive role in the community.

“We have always been Baltimore’s ‘best-kept secret,” said Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police. He said there was no substantive data that showed armed officers caused problems in schools, only suggestions that “it could.”

Baltimore is the only jurisdiction in Maryland with a sworn school police force. In surrounding counties, local police or sheriff’s departments patrol schools and are allowed to carry their weapons.

Sekou Kasimu, 69, said that’s a violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which states that all citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law.

At the end of the period of public input, students with a group called the Baltimore Algebra Project formed a phalanx with their backs to the board members.

“No guns in schools” they said in unison. “We gonna fight for our lives.”

After attempting to get the students to return to their seats, visibly exasperated board commissioner Cheryl A. Casciani declared a break with a pounding of her gavel. “This meeting is officially recessed,” she said.

Glenn, the bill’s sponsor, said she was “very disappointed” by the decision and felt the board had succumbed to pressure from the student group. “I think that this is a very unwise decision,” she said. “These are sworn police officers. They are not security guards. They have more training than Baltimore police.”

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©2019 The Baltimore Sun

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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