Arming school police is considered
School board hosts forum on whether school-based officers should carry guns
Baltimore remains deeply divided about the best way to keep city students safe in their schools.
Some argue that school police officers must be allowed to carry guns in the building in case an armed intruder bursts in with the intent to harm children and their teachers. Others say arming these officers will strengthen the school-to-prison pipeline and create more dangers for the predominantly African-American student population.
Passionate advocates for both sides of the issue packed the school system headquarters Thursday as the school board once again raised the question: Should Baltimore allow school-based officers to carry guns while patrolling the hallways?
And while the packed room was in two clear camps, 66-year-old Ralph Moore appeared to earn applause from everyone.
“We’re all concerned about the safety of children and teachers in the schools. On that we agree easily,” he said. “Can we also stipulate that we’re all afraid? It’s getting crazy out here, and we feel that.”
This issue last roiled the city in 2015 when the school board asked the Baltimore legislative delegation to change the current law, which prohibits school police from carrying guns during operating hours. The board members did so without seeking any public input.
Board chair Cheryl Casciani pledged to do things differently this time.
The board doesn’t have the power to mandate whether officers carry guns or not, but it can ask the legislature to make changes. Until that happens, the roughly 90 city schools police officers will be permitted to carry their service weapons while patrolling the exterior of a school before and after school hours. But they are required to store their weapons in a secure location during the school day.
Baltimore Democrat Del. Cheryl Glenn said she supports allowing school police to carry their guns in the buildings.
“Having sworn police officers have weapons with them is a matter of being proactive and not reactive,” she said. “I’m looking forward to addressing this issue in the upcoming session.”
Student leaders with Youth As Resources said they’re concerned about kids’ perceptions that school police already use excessive force. The student-led community organizing group is against allowing school police to carry guns.
“Relationships between police and youth are distrustful enough without police in our school having guns,” said 16-year-old Jerell Smith, a student at Forest Park.
Baltimore is the only jurisdiction in Maryland with a sworn school police force. In surrounding counties, local police or sheriff’s departments patrol schools and are allowed to carry their weapons.
Some parents on Thursday night questioned why — in a time when suburban counties are boosting school security in the wake of highly publicized shootings — Baltimore’s police are expected to patrol the halls with empty holsters.
That leaves them compromised should an officer need to respond to an active shooter, parents and teachers said.