Baltimore, MD – Just two weeks after a staff member was shot at a Baltimore City school, the school board reversed its earlier position and voted to support legislation to arm Baltimore City school police officers.
The bill, proposed by Baltimore Democratic State Delegate Cheryl Glenn, has struggled since its introduction, according to The Baltimore Sun.
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 may 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 officer are required to lock up their guns at the start of the school day, WBAL reported.
In January, the Baltimore City Public Schools Board of School Commissioners met at school headquarters to discuss and vote on whether to support Glenn’s bill, but the meeting was largely drowned out by the chanting and demands of a student group that attended.
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.
Board Chair Cheryl Casciani was forced to call a 10-minute recess in order to bring the meeting back to order so the board could vote.
They voted 10 to 0 to oppose the bill that would allow school resource officers to carry guns in school, and Glenn withdrew her proposed legislation due to lack of support.
But two weeks later, there was a shooting at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, and the lawmaker changed her mind.
Glenn 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.
When the shooting happened, the school police officer on campus was unarmed as usual, according to The Baltimore Sun.
However, the officer’s supervisors were at Frederick Douglass to attend a conference when the incident occurred, and they were able to help the officer take Davis tackle the gunman and take him into custody.
Glenn has 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.”
On Tuesday, the school board reconsidered arming Baltimore City school police and voted 8 to 2 to support Glenn’s legislation that would allow officers to patrol Baltimore schools armed, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Casciani pointed out that the school board vote in favor of the bill did not mean that actually arming school police officers would come to fruition because the legislation still had to make it through the state house.
“It’s not a given what will happen in Annapolis,” she said, “and after it happens we will have some real decisions to make about how we’re going to do this.”
Not all of the city’s elected lawmakers are in support of Glenn’s bill, but the author thinks having the support of the school board will go a long way towards passage.
“It would be nice if we lived in a world where we didn’t need guns at all, but that’s not the reality for us in Baltimore City. This decision will give the bill a lot of the support the delegation needs to see,” she said. “This is all about public safety.”
The Principals Union ratcheted up their support for the legislation to arm school police officers after the recent school shooting in the district.
"If anything happens to a principal, assistant principal, teacher or child because there is no armed school police officer in that building, I'm going to hold you responsible,” Principals Union President Jimmy Gittings said during his testimony before the school board.