Lawmakers Block Bill To Let Baltimore School Police Officers Have Guns
Baltimore, MD – Just days after Baltimore lawmakers voted to allow Johns Hopkins University to form its own armed police department, they voted to kill legislation that would arm Baltimore City school police officers inside the schools.
The city’s state house delegation voted 10 to 5 on Saturday against a bill proposed by Baltimore-area Delegate Cheryl Glenn that would allow school police officers to carry weapons inside the school, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“It shows the priorities of some people who are sent down to Annapolis,” said Baltimore School Police Sergeant Clyde Boatwright, the president of the school police officers’ union. “They voted against the public school students but voted to support a private institution.”
The same elected officials voted 9 to 4 on March 12 to support an armed police force for Johns Hopkins University, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Sgt. Boatright pointed out that the school board, school police officials, and the school police union all supported Glenn’s legislation.
“Disappointment is an understatement,” he said. “The students and staff of city schools deserve better. It’s clear to me that some people that have decision-making power in Annapolis are out of touch with the reality of Baltimore.”
The issue has been fraught controversy since Glenn first proposed arming the officers in January.
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 would 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 had 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.”
On Feb. 26, 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’s 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.”
Despite a previous lack of support from the city’s elected lawmakers, Glenn was hopeful that having the support of the school board would go a long way towards passage of her bill to arm the officers.
“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.”
But when it came time for that vote by the Baltimore delegation on March 16, advocates of arming the officers were disappointed yet again.
Maryland Delegate Brooke Lierman was one of the city leaders who led the opposition.
She argued there was no evidence to support arming school police officers and said a gun battle between police and a school shooter could lead to more injuries or deaths, The Baltimore Sun reported.
"There's no data to demonstrate that having an armed guard or armed police officer in a school building deters active shooter situations or makes people safer,” Lierman said.
Glenn said she would consider re-introducing the bill next legislative session, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“The issue is so important that I may try again,” she said.