Montgomery County Councilmembers Will Jawando and Craig Rice announced they will convene a task force to grow mental health professionals and other support services in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), with the intention that police officers will not be in schools everyday.
“We know that our current systems are not working, particularly for our Black and brown youth, and our disabled students,” Jawando said during a press conference Monday. “That it’s all too often serving as an entry point into the school-to-prison pipeline and to criminalizing youth instead of providing the appropriate services that our kids need.”
According to a staff report, the task force will include students, teachers, principals, mental health professionals, parents and advocates. Jawando says it will include just as many students as adults. He said this is a post-School Resource Officer (SRO) conversation.
“There’s no longer a question of whether we should have police patrolling our schools, we should not,” Jawando said.
Rice, who previously supported the SRO program, said his perspective changed after talking with stakeholders, especially students. He said he is joining Jawando and no longer believes that daily police presence in an enforcement capacity fosters a positive environment for MCPS students.
“We come as folks on opposite sides of the issue,” Rice said. “But, we now both strongly believe that the way for us to move forward is to acknowledge that we’re not going to have school police officers walking our hallways, enforcing our hallways any longer. But, in addition, what we have to do is make sure that we make the investments in the appropriate supports for students as that is the only vital path for us to move forward.”
Rice said some serious incidents will still require police intervention.
The task force will be asked to offer recommendations by June 30. Jawando said the recommendations will be taken up by the council in conjunction with county government and County Executive Marc Elrich. Jawando hopes the county can move forward with some recommendations as MCPS heads into the 2021-2022 school year.