Perry Hall had two school resource officers: One was in the cafeteria, police said, and the second was taking a day off.
Critics of putting more police in schools point out that the counselor, not the police officer, stopped the shooting. They also say that, day to day, police often become involved in minor infractions and that federal data show that minority students are more likely to be arrested than white students.
“Anyplace that increases police presence should expect they will see a spike in arrests of those young people that the officers are there to protect — and not for things that create a danger to the school,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization.
Maryland Del. John W.E. Cluster Jr. (R-Baltimore County), whose district includes Perry Hall, said that the police presence helped on the day of the shooting, allowing an officer to take the suspect into custody immediately.
Cluster views police presence as important at all schools, and after the Connecticut shooting, he proposed a Maryland bill to station an officer in any school that doesn’t have one and pay for new hires with state gambling revenue earmarked for education.
Maryland officials estimate that 21 percent of school sites have at least a part-time school resource officer. In Virginia, 47 percent of the schools have at least a part-time police presence, according to recent data.
In Montgomery, supporters of the school resource officer program have redoubled efforts. School board member Michael A. Durso, who worked as a principal for 32 years, said he knows the difference between high schools with officers and those without.
“I can tell you it’s two different worlds,” Durso said, recalling that in 2009, while he was principal at Springbrook High School, a potential attack was intercepted by a school resource officer. “There are no statistics on things that don’t happen. When you prevent incidents, there’s no tally sheet.”
Fredrick Kunkle contributed to this report.