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Educationby Danielle Sweeney1:07 pmMar 6, 20150

City delegation kills House bill on school police carrying guns

Controversial measure would allow city school police to have guns in school buildings during the day

Above: Unlike other jurisdictions, Baltimore’s public school system has its own police force.

Baltimore city lawmakers in Annapolis today voted unanimously to table indefinitely HB101, the city school police guns bill.

The motion to table was made at this morning’s meeting of the city delegation by Del. Antonio Hayes (40th District) and seconded by Del. Mary L. Washington (43rd District).

Washington, a vocal opponent of the the measure, said the action essentially kills the bill:  “We have effectively stopped the motion for the present session.”

“With this unanimous vote,” she added, “both sides are saying that the matter [has] not yet made its case sufficiently to pass this sweeping change to the Maryland State Code.”

Lack of Transparency

Sponsored by two powerful 43rd District lawmakers, Sen. Joan Carter Conway and Del. Curtis Anderson, the legislation has generated strong feelings on both sides.

The measure, which would allow school police officers to carry guns in school buildings during the day, was introduced at the request of the Board of School Commissioners, but without prior notice to school parents.

Supporters of the legislation, notably the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents school police, argued that since the officers who police schools in other jurisdictions can carry firearms during the school day, they should be able to do so as well.

They said city schools need to be protected from internal and external threats, including armed attacks by intruders.

Opponents of the bill, which included parents and legislators, criticized the school board for poor communication, lack of transparency and for not providing a rationale for why police needed to carry guns in school buildings in the first place.

They pointed to the fact that Baltimore is the only jurisdiction in Maryland with its own separate school police force.

Further fueling fears about the measure was the recent case of a city school police officer indicted for assault. The charges against Officer Lakisha Pulley came in connection with an October incident in which prosecutors said that Pulley struck one middle school student with a baton and sprayed two others with pepper spray.

City Schools Silent

School officials have not answered questions from the media and parents regarding school police accountability, training or data on school police effectiveness.

Parent Melissa Schober, a vocal opponent of the legislation, said she is happy that the house bill is dead, but far from satisfied.

“I want to continue pressing for answers at city school board hearings and elsewhere regarding current carry practices, and the oversight, training and program evaluation of school policing,” Schober said.

An earlier version of the school police force's Mission Statement on the  Baltimore City Public Schools website.

An earlier version of the school police force’s Mission Statement on the Baltimore City Public Schools website.

“I want the city school board to learn that parents can be a positive force for change and [a] check on their authority.”

Among the questions that remain unanswered as a result of the flap over the proposal is just what the actual practice is regarding officers carrying weapons.

School police force officials have acknowledged they actually currently do carry guns in some schools during the school day – something they have complained they are barred from doing by law.

Officer Pulley, in a video of the October 28 incident at Vanguard Collegiate Middle School, appears to be carrying a pistol.

UPDATE: The Brew received this statement this afternoon from Baltimore City Public Schools spokeswoman Edie House-Foster:

“Chief [Marshall T.] Goodwin, [of Baltimore City School Police] and his staff are busy implementing enhanced protocols that are within the framework of the current law.

The district is taking this opportunity not only to review current practices, but to work in collaboration with our families, advocates, lawmakers, and the Maryland Center for School Safety in determining the best course of action moving forward to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”


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