During a meeting on Tuesday, the Baltimore City school board voted unanimously to stand in opposition to a measure that would have made it possible for school police officers to carry firearms while on duty. The vote effectively killed HB31, a piece of legislation that would have allowed school police officers to be armed.
Maryland state delegate Cheryl D. Glenn, a Democrat who sponsored HB31, stated that she was going to withdraw the proposed legislation.
“I can’t move a bill that doesn’t have the support of the school board and the mayor,” she asserted, according to a report by the Baltimore Sun. “The votes wouldn’t be there.”
The school board opposition vote, which came in at 10-0, occurred after a lively debate on the matter. Students, parents, and police union members all expressed their views on the arming of school police officers, including some in support of the bill and others against.
Approximately 90 school police officers in the city are allowed to carry a service weapon when they patrol school buildings, but only before and after school hours. Currently, during the school day, the firearms must be stored in a secure location.
HB31 would have eliminated the requirement that school police officers’ guns had to be stored while school was in session.
Members of the public who stood in opposition to the bill cited problems within the school police force, which is part of the Baltimore Police Department, as part of their reason.
“The SROs are under federal consent decree,” said Kimberly Humphrey, a member of the ACLU.
Melissa Schober, a parent, stated that of the 90 arrests school officers have made, 89 of the people were black.
Those in favor of the measure argued that the police force had a positive impact on the community.
“We have always been Baltimore’s ‘best-kept secret,’” Sgt. Clyde Boatwright stated, speaking on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police. He added that there was no substantive data demonstrating that armed police officers caused issues in schools, only that “it could.”
Baltimore is the only Maryland jurisdiction with a separate, sworn school police force. In other counties, schools are patrolled by local sheriff’s departments and police, and those law enforcement officials are allowed to carry their firearms.