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After Frederick Douglass school shooting, Baltimore delegate resurrects bill to arm school police officers

State Del. Cheryl Glenn reintroduced legislation Wednesday that would authorize Baltimore school police officers to carry guns inside schools — a move she says is necessary after a recent shooting at Frederick Douglass High School.

Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat who is chairwoman of the city’s House delegation, withdrew the measure earlier in the General Assembly session amid unanimous opposition from the city school board.

But, after a school system staff member was shot this month, Glenn said she will no longer defer to the school board.

“After the shooting at Douglass High School, I felt that was Exhibit A as to why we need to have armed school police in our schools,” Glenn said. “It’s a matter of being proactive and not reactive. Thank God that situation did not escalate any further than it did.”

On Feb. 8, a 25-year-old Baltimore man entered the lobby at Frederick Douglass and allegedly shot 56-year-old special education assistant Michael Marks twice in the torso. According to charging documents, Neil Davis wanted to confront Marks about disciplining a relative who is a student. Davis is charged with attempted first-degree murder and firearm violations.

In January, the school board voted unanimously to oppose Glenn’s legislation, and she withdrew the bill, saying she couldn’t move forward without local support. Since the shooting at Douglass, however, city school board members have said they would reconsider their position.

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Glenn said Mayor Catherine Pugh has “talked with the school board and urged them to reconsider their vote of opposition.”

Glenn said she will force an up-or-down vote of the city’s delegation, so the public can see where each lawmaker stands on the issue.

“I will not sit by any longer,” she said. “We were elected to make the tough decisions.”

Baltimore school police officers carry their service weapons while patrolling outside buildings before and after school hours. They are required to store their guns in a secure location during the school day.

Baltimore’s school police union has long pushed for the change, arguing officers need to be prepared to stop a mass shooting inside a school.

But opponents — including students who protested against the legislation last month at the school board meeting — argue armed police officers could put black children at risk.

Glenn’s bill comes as Senate Republicans pursue a similar measure. Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, who represents Harford and Baltimore counties, is sponsoring a bill that would require school police officers to carry guns in schools.

School board chairwoman Cheryl Casciani acknowledged it is Glenn’s prerogative to move forward with legislation without local support.

“She’s a legislator with strong feelings about this, and if it’s something she wants to work on with her colleagues, she should do it,” Casciani said. “Everyone is trying to figure out the best thing to do, and this is a complicated issue.”

The board is scheduled to reconsider its position on arming school police during its Feb. 26 meeting. Casciani would not say whether she has changed her view since the Douglass shooting.

She said that she and other board members have been meeting with students, teachers and parents to get feedback before their next vote. The community remains fiercely divided, as it was before the shooting at Douglass.

Baltimore Sun reporter Talia Richman contributed to this article.

luke.broadwater@baltsun.com

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