After School Board Bans Armed Police, Lawmaker Seeks To Overrule Them
Annapolis, MD – A Maryland lawmaker reintroduced legislation that would permit Baltimore school police officers to carry firearms inside of school buildings in the wake of a recent shooting in a Baltimore City school.
This is the second time Maryland State Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) has introduced legislation that would overturn an earlier law that banned school resource officers carrying during school hours, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Baltimore school resource officers are the only law enforcement officers in Maryland who are prohibited from carrying their duty weapons while on-duty inside of schools, according to WBAL.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Baltimore is also the only jurisdiction in the state with a dedicated school police force.
Local police and sheriff’s departments protect schools throughout the rest of Maryland and carry their weapons while on duty in the schools.
But school resource officers in Baltimore may only carry their guns when they are patrolling the exterior campus of schools during the day, and in the school after hours.
School resource officers are required to lock up their guns at the start of the school day, WBAL reported.
A 10-0 vote by the Baltimore City school board on Jan. 22 forced Glenn to withdraw her proposal, but she said the recent shooting at Frederick Douglass High School changed her mind.
Now Glenn has said she will no longer defer to the school board, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“After the shooting at Douglass High School, I felt that was Exhibit A as to why we need to have armed school police in our schools,” the delegate said. “It’s a matter of being proactive and not reactive. Thank God that situation did not escalate any further than it did.”
On Feb. 8, a student had an altercation with a special education assistant at the high school, and called an adult relative to come settle the matter.
Neil Davis, 25, went to the school to confront the staff member and shot 56-year-old Michael Marks twice in the torso, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Officers were nearby and were able to tackle the gunman.
Glenn said some school board members expressed a willingness to change their vote after the school shooting.
She also said that Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has “talked with the school board and urged them to reconsider their vote of opposition,” according to The Baltimore Sun.
Glenn promised she would force an up-or-down vote of the city’s delegation so that citizens would know exactly how their own delegates have voted.
Maryland State Senate Republicans have already sponsored similar legislation that would require all school police officers in the state to carry weapons, according to The Baltimore Sun.
“I will not sit by any longer,” she said. “We were elected to make the tough decisions.”
School Board Chairwoman Cheryl Casciani said it was Glenn’s prerogative to reintroduce the legislation without the support of Baltimore City, but would not say whether she would change her vote.
“She’s a legislator with strong feelings about this, and if it’s something she wants to work on with her colleagues, she should do it,” Casciani said. “Everyone is trying to figure out the best thing to do, and this is a complicated issue.”
The Baltimore City school board is scheduled to reconsider its position on arming the school police during a Feb. 26 meeting, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Last time the school board met and considered the issue, the meeting was largely drowned out by the chanting and demands of a student group that attended to protest.
Students from a group called the Baltimore Algebra Project told members of the school board that they felt they should have a say in decisions that are made about their education.
But then when their time expired, the students refused to sit down or cede the floor to other members of the community who had come to the meeting.
Casciani was forced to call a 10-minute recess in order to bring the meeting back to order so the board could vote.
Despite the protest by the students, there were numerous parents at that meeting in support of the proposed legislation.
"I support the second amendment. De-escalate armed suspects. Let's de-escalate when they're firing at you. You just jump up and shout, 'de-escalate.' It doesn't work," Leo Burroughs Jr. told the school board.
Baltimore Police Sergeant Clyde Boatwright, president of the school officers’ union, spoke in support of the proposed legislation, and made a point to put responsibility at the feet of those who were making the decision.
"We just need to be clear that if and when we have a serious situation in Baltimore, everyone is going to look back at this day and say, 'You know what? They had a chance to get it right and they didn't,'" Sgt. Boatwright told WBAL.
He pointed out that the school board had been in support of the proposed legislation two years ago.