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Letter of Opposition: House Bill 1089: Primary and Secondary Education – Expansion of Mental Health Services and Prohibition of School Resource Officers

The following Letter of Opposition was sent to the House Ways and Means Committee of the Maryland General Assembly on March 1, 2021

On behalf of the Maryland Center for School Safety (MCSS), thank you for the opportunity to submit this letter of opposition to House Bill 1089. 

The Safe to Learn Act of 2018 (STLA) received broad bipartisan support because it addresses both the physical safety needs and the behavioral health needs of students. The STLA balances aggressive Statewide standards for school safety with built-in flexibility for each school system to assess and evaluate the needs within individual school communities in order to make informed decisions about resource allocation in support of school safety. As a result, within areas of shared jurisdiction local school systems and law enforcement agencies work together to determine whether a School Resource Officers (SRO) or adequate law enforcement coverage is best positioned to contribute to the safety of each individual school community. 

Though the STLA is only three-years-old and a full in-person school year has not yet passed with it fully implemented, the law’s passage has already led to impressive collaboration among the twenty-four school systems’ designated mental health services and school safety coordinators as well as the development and statewide delivery of Maryland’s robust SRO and school security employee training curriculum. Topics required by law to be covered in the SRO training curriculum include De-escalation, Disability Awareness, Maintaining a Positive School Climate, Constructive Interactions with Students, Implicit Bias, and Disability and Diversity Awareness with specific attention to Racial and Ethnic Disparities.

Yet, House Bill 1089 eliminates SROs, Baltimore City Schools Police, and any other armed professionals and professionals with arrest powers inside Maryland’s public schools. MCSS believes that SROs specifically, and armed professionals and those with arrest powers more generally, should remain an option for Maryland public school communities that want them. Those responsible for the lives of our students and safety of our schools should be able to access every resource that they currently have at their disposal in order to maintain safe schools throughout Maryland. House Bill 1089’s proposed elimination of certain resources would set back the successful multi-year efforts of diverse Maryland jurisdictions where SROs are celebrated, integrated, and vital contributors to safe school communities.

In reference to specific language within House Bill 1089, please note the following:

  • The Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission is referenced various times; however, it should be noted that the commission has no authority over School Security Employees who work in Maryland public schools.
  • Lines 17 and 18 of page 18 of House Bill 1089 read, “(F) THE STATE BOARD SHALL ADOPT REGULATIONS TO CARRY OUT THIS [] SECTION.” Please note that the State Board of Education has no oversight or regulatory authority over the Maryland Center for School Safety or the Safe Schools Fund. The School Safety Subcabinet serves as the governing board of MCSS, and the Subcabinet approves Safe Schools Fund grants and has regulatory authority pursuant to Md. Code, Educ. Art. §7-1503(g)(12). 

Thank you again for taking the time to consider the information shared above, and we respectfully request that the committee give House Bill 1089 an unfavorable report.

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