Wilkins, Acevero Introduce Bills Proposing Elimination of School Resource Officers

Two State Delegates, representing Montgomery County residents, are introducing legislation in the Maryland House of Delegates aimed at reimagining police in public schools across Maryland. The two bills propose eliminating law enforcement officers in schools and redirecting the funds to mental health services.

Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (District 20) is introducing the Counselors Not Cops Act (HB 496) to the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday, which aims to shift funds from School Resource Officer (SRO) programs to educational programs for restorative justice and mental health services. The bill proposes that beginning with fiscal year 2023, the governor should alter “the membership School Safety Subcabinet Advisory Board […] to include in the annual budget bill an appropriation of $10,000,000 to the Safe Schools Fund to be used for certain purposes related to expanding the availability of school-based mental health services.”

Wilkins’ bill serves as a “companion” to Del. Gabriel Acevero’s Police-Free Schools bill, which he will introduce sometime later in February. Acevero said in a media briefing Tuesday that police have not effectively been keeping schools safe. He says his bill would ensure “school districts would not be able to contract with outside law enforcement and have a police officer regularly patrolling schools.”

Acevero and Wilkins both said at Tuesday’s media briefing that officers in schools have disproportionately affected students of color. Acevero said the Police Free Schools Act would help schools be “affirming places,” The bill recognizes that schools should be places where students are seen as students rather than criminals, Acevero said.

While both pieces of legislation would eliminate SROs, they would not prohibit school leaders from calling law enforcement agencies in times of emergencies. One of the goals is to prevent educators from calling on in-school officers to respond to certain behavioral incidents.

Acevero and Wilkins’ bills were endorsed by several organizations Tuesday including CASA, Schools Not Jails, CAIR, Southern Marylanders for Racial Equality, and Youth is Resources.

Jenny Egan, a juvenile public defender in Baltimore City, says that a single arrest can have a significant impact on children.

“Eliminating school police…it has the power to increase educational attainment and reduce crime,” Egan said.

Tweet Recap: Wilkins, Acevero Introduce Bills Proposing Elimination of SROs

Here’s a play-by-play, or tweet-by-tweet, of the virtual press conference on Tuesday where Acevero and Wilkins introduced their bills.

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Deirdre Byrne

About Deirdre Byrne

Deirdre Byrne is a social media coordinator for Montgomery Community Media. She can be reached at dbyrne@mymcmedia.org or on twitter at @DeirdreByrneMCM.


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