The Montgomery County Council heard impassioned public feedback Thursday evening on a bill to remove school resource officers from public schools.
The issue of removing SROs became a focal point of Black Lives Matter protests in Montgomery County last summer after the murder of George Floyd.
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“Everyone on this Council seems to agree that Black lives matter,” former Board of Education member Nate Tinbite said. “And if you sincerely believe that, then the massively disproportionate arrest statistics, wrenching stories and national peer review research should be enough.”
The independent Office of Legislative Oversight found that Black students, who made up only 22% of Montgomery County’s school population in 2019, were 47% of those arrested during the four-year period from 2015 to 2019.
“The Montgomery County Public Schools SRO program is racist,” student Mauricio Quintero-Aviles said.
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“It is time that we drop this dumbfounded narrative that SROs are mentors,” said Lauren Payne of Young People for Progress.
“It will stop school-to-prison pipeline,” Payne said.
“Instead of investing in therapeutic services, my county chose to invest in a program that made me feel uncomfortable in my school,” student Kyson Taylor said.
“I have not had a negative experience with an SRO,” student Allyson Bennett said. “I don’t recall and SRO acting aggressive toward me or racially profiling me, and that is the point, because my Black classmates cannot say the same.”
“We spend $3 million on the SRO program,” student Steve Park said. “Those funds must go into counseling and mental health services.”
Assistant State’s Attorney George Simms III spoke in favor of the bill.
“I’ve worked for several years in the state’s attorney’s office, and for many of those years I worked on a regular basis with SROs,” he said. “These SROs are 26 of the most dedicated, compassionate and caring people that I have ever met.”
The budget for SROs comes from the county police department. The Council will vote on the bill in the coming weeks.