Last week, the Baltimore City school board unanimously decided against allowing police officers to carry firearms in public schools.
Legislation to overturn the prohibition on firearms was sponsored in the Maryland General Assembly by State Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, but she later withdrew it due to lack of support from the city’s school board, reports the Baltimore Sun. The final vote was 10 to 0.
“I can’t move a bill that doesn’t have the support of the school board and the mayor,” Glenn said. “The votes wouldn’t be there.” A similar bill reportedly failed in the Maryland General Assembly in 2015.
“I think that this is a very unwise decision,” Glenn added. “These are sworn police officers. They are not security guards. They have more training than Baltimore police.”
The current law only permits the roughly 90 Baltimore School City police officers to carry their weapons when school is not in session and requires them to lock up the firearms while inside schools.
During the meeting, the public was permitted to weigh in on the debate. CBS Baltimore reports a group of students “took charge” of the meeting on Tuesday and “refused to give up the floor.” Some students also passed out papers with report cards that gave primarily Fs and Cs as grades to the student’s relationships with school police officers.
The student group called Baltimore Algebra Project reportedly formed a phalanx with their backs to the school board.
In a video posted on Twitter by ACLU Maryland Education, the students are heard saying, “We are the youth; we reject House Bill 31. No guns in schools.”
“It is important to reject HB 31 because we do not want to go backwards,” Kimberly Humphrey says in the video. “We have to focus on certain practices and other alternatives that are a way of preventing the concerning behaviors. Guns in schools alone are not the answer.”
Those who oppose the legislation had several reasons, from supposed racism to lack of effectiveness. Melissa Schober, a parent, claimed the police officers arrested 90 students last year, and all but one of them were black. Other opponents claimed police officers have not effectively prevented deadly school shootings in the past.
“We respected your place,” the students reportedly chanted. “We are not going to stop until we are allowed to talk all our demands.”
“I’ve never known of a police officer in my lifetime who doesn’t have all the tools of the trade,” Baltimore resident Leo Burroughs told CBS Baltimore.
The President of the School Police Union, Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, was disappointed with the decision. “We just need to be clear that if and when we have a serious situation in Baltimore, everyone's going to look back to this day and say, 'you know what, they had a chance to get it right and they didn’t,'” he said.
Baltimore is the only city in Maryland with a school police force and the only police department in the state that prevents its officers from carrying firearms, reports Fox Baltimore.
The School Police Union reportedly plans to keep working on this issue.