Date: March 4, 2021
Hi, my name is Kristin Mink, and thank you to the Board for hearing my testimony today. I am a graduate of Montgomery Blair High School, a former MCPS teacher, and now the parent of an incoming MCPS kindergartener. I’m here today to urge you to act in the best interests of our students and end the SRO program, and to keep police out of schools unless imminent physical danger requires a call for service.
The Maryland Center for School Safety has noted that the nature of “adequate coverage” per Maryland’s Safe To Learn Act varies, and in last year’s annual SRO report, they described one possible form of adequate coverage as “deputies who respond to calls for service at schools that do not have an assigned SRO" (1). So it is completely within the rights of the Board of Education, now, to end the SRO program and any practice of having police patrol our school buildings.
With students returning to school fresh from the trauma of the last year, I urge you to act without delay, and immediately replace police with an increase in counselors, tutoring programs, restorative justice training and implementation, and other resources that support our students without criminalizing them.
At state and local hearings, students, parents, teachers, and experts have told us that having cops in schools is actively harmful to students — especially Black and brown students — and that the practice creates a school-to-prison pipeline.
Despite this, supporters of the program keep returning to three main reasons for their support, and I would like to briefly address each of them:
1. First, some parents say they feel safer knowing there are cops in schools. While this feeling is not grounded in evidence that cops do make schools safer, this emotional response is unsurprising, given that many kids are raised to view police officers primarily as heroes — think Paw Patrol. And when those kids don’t go on to experience the effects of systemic racism prevalent in policing, that one-dimensional view of police remains intact. But the reality is that, regardless of some people’s positive feelings about cops, there is no compelling evidence that having police stationed in schools makes schools safer, or makes mass shootings less likely or less deadly.
And in fact, there is compelling evidence that students, especially Black and brown students, are less safe with cops in schools. Arrest rates of children increased significantly after schools received federal grants to hire police officers, and these arrests are disproportionately of Black students. Disciplinary actions, including suspensions, have been found to increase, again of disproportionately Black students. One study found the introduction of police in schools lowered the graduation rate (2).
2. The second theme we hear from supporters are stories about kind, compassionate SROs. Mo Canady, the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said that well-trained SROs operate more like counselors (3). If the best defense of SROs is that the best ones act like counselors, that seems like a pretty clear indication that we should just hire more counselors.
3. The third reason we hear for why cops should stay in schools is because police want to be in schools, to build relationships with students. I would respond that schools are for educating children, not a public relations tool for the police. The only question that you, the Board of Education, should be considering is: What is best for the students? And that answer is clear.
If it’s not clear to you, think about a kid you love, and ask yourself: What do you want for them, on their worst day? On a day when they’re sad or mad or hungry or exhausted, when they might care less about rules and decorum. Who do you hope is there to respond to them? A police officer? Or a counselor?
(1) Maryland Center for School Safety 2020 Annual School Resource Officers / Adequate Coverage Report (https://schoolsafety.maryland.gov/Documents/Reports-Docs/SRO%20Adequate%20Coverage%20Report-2020.pdf)
(2) Chalkbeat: New Studies Point To A Big Downside For Bringing In More Police (https://www.chalkbeat.org/2019/2/14/21121037/new-studies-point-to-a-big-downside-for-schools-bringing-in-more-police)
(3) Chicago Tribune: Do police officers make schools safer or more dangerous?