Prince George’s County School Board to Vote on Security Personnel Arrest Powers
Data from the last three years shows the majority of student arrests were made by security personnel and not school resource officers.
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — The Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Board of Education will soon vote on whether to remove police powers from its security officers.
The district currently has around 200 security personnel stationed throughout its schools — 66 of whom are school resource officers (SROs) employed by the Prince George’s County Police Department, reports WUSA9. The district’s decision to cast a vote came after concerns were raised regarding the number of arrests made by non-SROs.
“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).”
Based on surveys from the PGCPS community and recommendations from the Prince George’s County Police Reform Workgroup, the current proposal is looking to reduce the number of security personnel with arrest powers while continuing investments in mental health programs and restorative justice approaches to student discipline.
A security employee who spoke anonymously with WUSA9 said while data shows higher arrest numbers, they do not handcuff students and their arrests are typically a paper formality. He also said no one who understands the security officers’ roles has been a part of the decision-making process to strip them of their powers.
“When they go talk to other people, they can’t articulate what we’re doing because they actually don’t know enough. But I think that they need to start grooming and building up and hiring within, so people can articulate what we do and get the word out,” he said. “We’re overshadowed, and people are misinformed because our leadership, who’s speaking to other leadership, don’t know enough. And that’s one of the major problems.”
Under Maryland’s Safe to Learn Act of 2018, public schools are required to have either an SRO or plans for adequate law enforcement coverage, according to LearnSafe. Each local school system is also required to appoint a mental health services coordinator to lead existing services and referral procedures.