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Juvenile defenders call for removal of school resource officers from Prince George’s County public schools

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender called for the Prince George’s County Board of Education to remove school resource officers from public schools on Thursday — ahead of the board’s resolution to consider ending the contract.

According to a press release, the agency said the presence of school resource officers contributes to the negative impact on black students.

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“As we see every day in our work, the presence of SROs directly impact the school to prison pipeline, easily funneling black students into the criminal justice system,” the agency stated.

“(T)he reality we hear from our clients is that the mere presence of an armed, uniformed officer changes the learning setting and escalates simple disagreements, contributing to a culture of criminalization and antagonism in schools.”

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Earlier this week, school board members submitted proposals to end the school system’s contract with Prince George’s Police Department.

“Officers don’t need to be in that building. Our schools are meant to be spaces for growth and learning and advancement,” District 5 Board Member Raaheela Ahmed said.

“It is the antithesis of what we are trying to do to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The agency cited data from the Maryland State Department of Education. In the 2017 to 2018 school year, Prince George’s County had 350 school based arrests while Montgomery County had 226 and Baltimore City had 60.

Out of those arrests made by school resource officers in Prince George’s County, 31% were non-violent offenses and a third were referred for prosecution, the press release states.

Both Ahmed and District 1 Board Member David Murray have submitted proposals to end the school system’s contracts with local law enforcement. Ahmed’s resolution is on the agenda for the board meeting Thursday, and Murray’s proposal was discussed Monday in the Operations, Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee, where three out of five members voted in favor of recommending the Board of Education end the contract.

The agency pointed to highly covered police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor while examining such issues on a county level. A Prince George’s officer shot a handcuffed man in his police car in January and in June a video showed officers kicking a handcuffed man.

“We cannot wait for a catastrophe at the hands of an armed police officer in our schools to make a change,” the agency stated.

“By removing SROs from our schools, this board can take the first important step in dismantling the school security apparatus, and re-imagine schools without police. Together, we can create the safe schools our students deserve.”

Reporter Rachael Pacella contributed to this article.

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