Advertisement
  • Education

Baltimore school board to reconsider stance on arming school police at Tuesday meeting

Baltimore school board to reconsider stance on arming school police at Tuesday meeting
Police stand outside Frederick Douglass High School following a shooting on campus on Feb. 8. (Ulysses Mu?oz / Baltimore Sun)

The Baltimore school board is expected to reconsider its stance on arming school police officers during its Tuesday meeting, a little over two weeks after a staff member was shot at Frederick Douglass High School.

The shooting — which left 56-year-old special education assistant Michael Marks with serious injuries — instantly revived the debate over whether state law should be changed to allow school police officers in the city to carry their service weapons.

Advertisement

Currently, Baltimore school police officers are allowed to carry their guns while patrolling outside buildings before and after school hours, but they are required to store their guns in a secure location during the school day.

The 10-member school board voted unanimously during its Jan. 22 meeting to oppose legislation that would have lifted this prohibition. After the Douglass shooting, the board agreed to reconsider its position.

No matter what the school board decides Tuesday, state Del. Cheryl Glenn plans to move forward with a bill that would authorize Baltimore school police officers to carry guns inside schools. She withdrew previously submitted legislation after the board’s last vote, saying she couldn’t proceed without local support. But following the Feb. 8 shooting at Douglass, Glenn said she would no longer defer to the school board.

According to police, 25-year-old Neil Davis came to the school that Friday to confront Marks about disciplining his family member who is a student there, according to charging documents. After meeting Marks in the front lobby, police say, Davis starting firing his gun, hitting the staffer twice.

“I felt that was Exhibit A as to why we need to have armed school police in our schools,” Glenn said of her decision to reintroduce the bill.

Baltimore is the only jurisdiction in Maryland with a sworn school police force, so the legislation would only affect the city. In surrounding counties, local police or sheriff’s departments patrol schools and are allowed to carry their weapons.

The issue has long divided Baltimore, with the recent shooting only appearing to deepen each side’s conviction that their stance is the right way to keep kids safe.

The school police union believes it is further evidence that officers must be armed in order to protect the students and staff from an outside threat. But some parents and community groups say the board shouldn’t make a reactionary decision about an important policy. They argue that an armed school police force could put children, especially black children, in danger and bolster the school-to-prison pipeline.

Marks, the Douglass victim, believes officers should be armed.

Students with the youth advocacy group Baltimore Algebra Project briefly shut down the Jan. 22 meeting and plan to be just as vocal about their opposition to arming school police officers this time around. They believe armed officers will scare students and put them into “the mentality of prisoners,” as well as raise the risk of excessive force being used against children.

“We believe there are no substantial benefits to arming school police officers, and if these officers are armed it threatens the safety of students along with disrupting the learning environment,” according to a written statement from the youth organization.

On the day of the shooting, the police officer assigned to Douglass was unarmed as usual. But his area supervisors, who were armed, happened to be on the Douglass campus that day to attend a conference. The officers together took Davis into custody.

District spokeswoman Edie House-Foster said no officer pulled his firearm out during the encounter.

Advertisement
Advertisement