The lawmakers say the $3 million that funds the officer program should instead be used to expand mental health resources and after-school activities for students, as well as train school employees in restorative justice.
In February, Jawando and Riemer both opposed a proposed state-funded expansion of the resource officer program, agreeing with activists who say it disproportionately targets Black, Latino and disabled students.
The effort failed narrowly in the all-Democratic council, with Council President Sidney Katz (District 3) and Council members Craig Rice (District 2), Nancy Navarro (District 4), Gabe Albornoz (At Large) and Andrew Friedson (District 1) voting against it.
Jawando said he hopes to see the council vote differently this time around.
“Public discourse has changed,” he said in an interview Monday. “We’ve heard now from various groups who think we need to move on from this program.”
In a memo, Jawando and Riemer said they don’t think school resource officers should be laid off, but they want them reallocated to other vacancies within the Montgomery County Police Department. They also want to redirect $312,455 in funding from the program to hire more mental health professionals for students, $406,000 for after-school programs targeting at-risk youths, and $750,000 for the school system’s Restorative Justice Unit, which promotes non-punitive forms of discipline.
Montgomery started its SRO program in 2002, using a federal grant in the aftermath of the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. Since then, the number of school resource officers in the county has varied.
Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith has been asked to present a thorough analysis of the program to the council and Board of Education by January.
Two council members — Friedson and Albornoz — say they intend to review that report before deciding on whether to scrap the program.
But Jawando and Riemer said they would continue pushing for their bill even if the school board comes out in support of retaining it.
“This is our program and our decision to make,” Riemer said.
Maryland law requires local governments to ensure “adequate law enforcement coverage” of all schools but does not mandate that this be done through SROs.
Statewide data released in June showed that of 3,141 arrests in Maryland public schools during the 2018-2019 school year, 80 percent were made by SROs. Black students made up 34 percent of the student population but 56 percent of those arrested. The figures track with state and national trends showing that Black students tend to be arrested at far higher rates than their White counterparts.
Some Montgomery lawmakers have argued that the suburb has a better record on school discipline than other localities. They cite a 2016 report showing that rates of arrests and school removals in Montgomery are lower than statewide averages and have been decreasing over time.
“Folks continue to espouse things about our SRO program that are not true,” Rice, a longtime champion of the program, said in February. “If you have evidence, please let me know. And if you don’t, please stop saying it.”
A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Jan. 12.