Legislation that would have enabled Baltimore City's schools' police force to carry handguns while patrolling or working inside of our school buildings has been tabled — a wise decision. This bill was said to have been introduced to rectify an oversight that should have been addressed years ago, preventing city school police from carrying their weapons on school property, even though other jurisdictions allow it. Some described it as a non-issue, but for parents such as myself who send their children into these buildings every day and have come to understand that the police relations within the city are not those of yesteryear's "Officer Friendly," this is a major concern.

I have a tremendous respect for the efforts of our school police officers, teachers and administrators who believe this initiative is necessary to maintain a safe learning environment, but I question whether they have examined why they believe this action is so imperative, especially in a city where the student population is largely non-white (83 percent black and 7 percent Hispanic) and poor (84 percent low income).


Recent studies and data suggest that the desire to regulate students with force and/or weapons often reflects the perceptions and beliefs about the very children the officers are expected to protect. A 2014 American Psychological Association study concluded that "black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence" as other children and "are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime." Another recent report on school discipline suggests that black girls are often seen as "unsophisticated, hypersexualized and defiant," and as a result, receive more subjective (and punitive) consequences for their behavior.

Statistics of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services show that Baltimore City's school-based arrests account for 90 percent of all such arrests statewide. It remains unfathomable to think all "bad" children reside in one area of the state and may require such harsh actions that could impede and restrict the likelihood of their success as young adults. With such alarming findings, it seems obvious how the deaths of Michael Brown (18 years old), Derrinesha Clay (17 years old) and Tamir Rice (12 years old) can happen.

When will we all question our implicit biases toward black children and realize that the answer cannot be to continue regulating them, but to find ways to relate and educate them? As long as these young people are viewed as "menaces to society" that must be managed and contained with use of force, incidents like the one at Vanguard Collegiate Middle School, in which an officer was criminally charged with assault after an altercation with three girls, will not only continue, but also escalate. This is why school police should not be allowed to carry weapons on school grounds. As much as it is believed that guns may play a role in protecting our children and the staff against possible intruders outside of the building, what is an even larger fear is that such weapons will play a role in an officer dealing with students inside the building.

The systemic denigration of our children has reached a boiling point that does not require additional force, but a renewed foundation. And as a community we should come together to strategize ways to cultivate healthy relationships with students and ensure the necessary support mechanisms are in place to help those most in need. Let's use the energy that surrounded the gun legislation to strengthen the educational, psychological and social needs of the students, rather than compounding anxiety in an already stress-filled environment.

In an urban school setting there exist several factors that may negatively impact the academic success of our students. Adding weapons to the equation will not alleviate any of those.

Will we continue to allow fear to dictate our decision making, or are we willing to do the work necessary to see our students as the children they are who require guidance, love, affirmation of self-worth and a reminder that the use of violence — especially with a weapon — is never the right answer?

Kimberly R. Moffitt is a professor of American Studies at UMBC. She is also the founding parent and board trustee of Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys charter school. Her email is krmoffitt@gmail.com.