In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Conn., Maryland Del. John Cluster Jr. (R-Dist. 8) of Parkville has proposed legislation calling for school resource officers (SRO) in our Maryland schools. His proposed bill would cost $50 million to the state to put SROs in elementary schools, under the assumption that most Maryland jurisdictions already have them in middle schools and high schools. He proposes gambling proceeds to fund his initiative.
In September 2002, Montgomery County received a U.S. Department of Justice COPS in School Grant; the Montgomery County Police Department was awarded $4 million to hire 32 SROs for Montgomery County Public Schools.
Unfortunately, in 2009 local government funding of this program was reduced from 32 SROs to only six full-time SROs assigned to cover 24 high schools.
The SRO program is a critical component of school-safety initiatives. The cornerstone of a good SRO program focuses on prevention, intervention, violence prevention, anti-bullying and outreach strategies and services through a collaborative partnership among various stakeholders committed to ensuring students receive a first-class education and the support they need as young adults.
Arrests are made when necessary to maintain a safe and secure environment. We assert that reducing funding to the SRO program in Montgomery County was an ill-advised decision.
For the past several years we have advocated tirelessly, including meeting with our local government and school officials in an effort to convince them of the many proactive and positive benefits of a fully staffed SRO program.
MCCPTA has several resolutions supporting the program, but due to recent fiscal constraints, Montgomery County elected officials have chosen not to continue fully funding it.
We all know kids cannot learn and teachers cannot teach in an unsafe environment, so we fully support Del. Cluster’s efforts to have SROs placed in every school across the state.
The governor and other politicians lobbied hard for the expansion of gambling and linked this to funding for schools. We agree that the gambling proceeds could provide additional support for schools, which could, importantly, include the supplemental funding for SROs in all schools in Maryland.
Donna Pfeiffer and Susan Burkinshaw
The letter writers are co-chairs of the Health and Safety Committee of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs.