LARGO, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - A proposal to remove police officers from Prince George's County schools is likely off the table for the next school year -- at least for now.
School board members decided Thursday evening not to discuss the measure until September, months after the current contract with police expires.
The contract between the school district and police expires at the end of this month, so without a vote, it seems police will be staying in schools for the fall.
The Safe to Learn Act, passed in 2018, requires school resource officers to be assigned to every public school in the state of Maryland or the school must have "adequate local law enforcement coverage." It's a law that would seem to stand in the way of a plan to remove the officers.
During a news conference today, Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks was asked about the idea.
"I believe that we cannot afford to withdraw a single resource from our students... it's both and it is that they deserve to be in a place where they are safe and they deserve to have the mental health services and every other service that they deserve. At a time they are in those schools because of the law, the Maryland state law Safe to Learn Act," said Alsobrooks.
Activists and several school board members have called for the cancellation of a contract between Prince George's County Public Schools and the county police department for about 30 school resource officers.
This is all coming amid the national discussion about police brutality, along with calls to defund the police.
Activists say resources need to be redirected to violence prevention, through mental health and social workers, and worry police in schools just leads to arrests for students who likely wouldn't face that kind of discipline if police weren't in schools every day.
Yet many school systems, including Prince George's County, have had violent fight videos go viral and there are increasing concerns over the frequency of school shootings.
"Removing them is not going to cripple the security that we have in place in this county. Then we're talking about investing money into mental health resources. I think none of us want to see anything escalate to a shooting. None of us do. So why aren't we putting preventative measures in our school system? Why aren't we putting resources into the mental health of our students?" said activist Krystal Oriadha.
"This resolution doesn't say let's not come up with some strategy for a rapid response or have the police nearby in maybe one-minute response time. It says don't have them walking the halls everyday armed with a gun," she continued.
How does the school system's Chief Executive Officer Dr. Monica Goldson feel about the issue?
"It is important that we do take time now to discuss the role of police officers whether they are over-represented in our schools and to find community alternatives to making sure our staff and students are safe, but before we make drastic changes we must first answer some very critical questions that I have been inundated with over the last 24 hours," said Dr. Goldson. She also emphasized that many are positive role models for students.
Dr. Goldson says some of those questions include:
- If you eliminate the officers, who is going to protect the students and staff from an active shooter?
- Will the role of teacher and administrator change if you remove the police?
- What about the voices of the students who like the school resource officer assigned to the school?
FOX 5's Evan Lambert reports this conversation likely now won't happen again until September 14.