BOE holds virtual public hearing on School Resource Officer program

Attendees+of+the+hearing+discuss+MCPS%27+SRO+program+over+Zoom.+Many+students+and+community+members+have+criticized+the+program+for+disproportionately+affecting+minorities.

Attendees of the hearing discuss MCPS’ SRO program over Zoom. Many students and community members have criticized the program for disproportionately affecting minorities.

By Vishnu Dandi

Students, PTSA members and Board of Education members from across Montgomery County discussed the School Resources Officer program in a virtual public hearing on March 2.   

Several prominent education leaders spearheaded the forum, including MCPS Student Member of the Board Nick Asante, Superintendent Jack Smith, BOE President Brenda Wolffe and Deputy Superintendent Monfia Mcknight. 

The hearing began with students sharing their experiences with SROs and advocating for the removal of the program. Students shared their experiences with purported implicit racial biases of the SRO program towards minority students. 

“This program negatively and disproportionately impacts black and brown students and perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline,” said Lauren Payne, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School. “This program needs to be ended.”

Although the program faces vocal opposition, a number of school administrators and cluster leaders believe the stationing of police officers on school grounds has improved the safety of the building. 

Walter Johnson PTSA President Debby Orsak mentioned an instance in October 2018 when an SRO helped prevent a school shooting from taking place. 

“It can be difficult to quantify how many times an SRO has stopped a school shooting or another bad event,” Orsak said. “Stopping the school shooting was only possible because the students felt comfortable reaching out to the SRO.”  

Proponents of ending the program suggest redistributing its three million dollar budget to fund mental health, restorative justice and support programs for Montgomery County students. 

“I hope the SRO program is swiftly replaced with more counselors,” said Poolesville freshman Brianna Akuamoah-Boateng. “MCPS fails to meet the proper counselor-to-student ratio. Currently, there are 465 students to one counselor, but it really should be 250 to one.”  

The Board held another public hearing on March 4, and will make a final decision in late May of this year. 

“Police don’t belong in schools,” Whitman sophomore Sonya Rashkovan said. “Schools should be places where students can learn and not a place where armed arrests should happen.”