Prince George’s County School Board Votes to Keep SROs
A recent survey of staff, parents, students and community members found 82% believe SROs are important or very important in keeping schools safe.
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — The Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Board of Education voted Monday night to keep school resource officers (SROs) in their schools while phasing out school security personnel.
Last month, the school board was tasked with deciding whether to remove police powers from its security officers after concerns were raised regarding the number of arrests made by non-SROs. The district currently has approximately 220 security personnel stationed throughout its schools — 33 of whom are SROs employed by the Prince George’s County Police Department and 66 security personnel who have arrest powers.
“Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) is committed to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline,” the district wrote in a statement. “Arrest data from the last three years shows that a majority of student arrests in our schools were made by PGCPS security personnel, not School Resource Officers (SROs).”
Monday’s decision came after recommendations drafted by the county’s Police Reform Task Force were accepted by PGCPS CEO Dr. Monica Goldson, reports WUSA 9. The school board did not have enough votes to overturn the CEO’s decision.
The main focus of the recommendations is to reform the school system’s approach to security by investing in mental health programs and restorative approaches to student discipline to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline through:
- Realignment of PGCPS security protocol
- Restructuring SROs and security personnel
- Updating school safety training requirements
- Establishing school safety data metrics to eventually phase out security personnel
- Investing in prevention and intervention programming for students
Gerrod Taylor, the parent of a seventh-grader in the district, said he hopes the school system adopts the recommendations and starts focusing its funding and efforts on mental health resources.
“We believe in transformative and restorative justice practices. We believe in investing in trauma-informed practices. Anti-racism and diversity staff training for our teachers and administrators,” he said. “Then hiring additional counselors, school psychologists and behavioral specialists to assist our children when they are having issues or they have experienced trauma, so I think there are alternative ways we can invest in our students to really support them.”
In a recent survey sent to 13,000 people, including staff, parents, students and other community members, 82% said they believe SROs are “important” or “very important” to maintaining a safe teaching and learning environment. You can see a further breakdown in the graphic below.
Some parents want security presence removed altogether, including Parent Teacher Student Association President Dannine Johnson, who believes SROs make schools “look like our children are in jails.”
Parent and community advocate Marylupe Romero has a vastly different opinion, indicating she has spoken with many students who are afraid to go to school. Romero also recalled working near a high school in the district for years and having to close early due to alleged gang violence.
“There has to be some type of security. We have to,” she said. “Can you imagine they take away security and the next day there’s a shooting?”