On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and killed 26 people, including 20 children. It was later discovered the original target of the shooter was likely Newtown High School, but that day, a police officer was parked outside. After seeing the police officer at the high school, Lanza drove to the elementary school, which was left unprotected. Evil and demented individuals look for unprotected locations, often referred to as “soft targets” to carry out their heinous crimes.

I told this story on the Senate floor in 2018 when the Maryland Senate took up the Safe to Learn Act. The bill was proposed after a number of school shootings across the country and at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, where a student was tragically killed. The legislation provides funding to enhance security at our schools, creates the Maryland School Safety Sub-cabinet; and invests in preventive measures like greater mental health counseling.

When we took up this legislation, I wanted to make sure all our schools had physical security to protect children. That is why I passed an amendment to the Safe to Learn Act, which required adequate police coverage for all of our schools. This means that there is either a police officer stationed at every school or police are able to respond quickly in case of an emergency. The state correctly made the decision to require local governments to invest in police protection for our children.

In Frederick County, we do not have a separate School Resource Officer (SRO) force. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, the Brunswick Police Department and the Frederick city police provide the coverage for our schools. Each school area has an officer that is designated as the SRO.

Unfortunately, the defund the police movement is now seeking to remove SROs from our schools. On Sept. 2, The Frederick News-Post published an article about a virtual town hall hosted by End Racism Now FCPS, where they called for the removal of SROs from all Frederick County public schools.

Given the violence we have seen in our schools in recent years, it is critical that an SRO be present. When parents drop their kids off at school, they should know they will be safe. Just a few years ago, a student was sentenced for plotting a mass murder at Catoctin High School, which included a gun and explosives. There have been shootings at a high school in Perry Hall and Randallstown. There have been shootings outside of Baltimore City schools. After a teacher was shot at Frederick Douglass High School, the Baltimore City School Board voted to reverse their prior decision and allow armed SROs in schools.

At Great Mills High School, the SRO immediately engaged the shooter and prevented further deaths and injuries. If an armed SRO had not been in that school, it would have taken critical minutes for the police to be dispatched and more children would have likely been shot and killed.

The Frederick County SRO program is widely regarded as one of the best in the state and the Safe to Learn Act helped to enhance these protections for our students. The enhanced security requirements and mental health counseling we provided for in the Safe to Learn Act were preventative measures. However, in the event of a crisis, the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Frederick County must reject this organized effort to remove police officers who are protecting our children and keeping them safe.

Michael Hough is a state senator representing parts of Frederick and Carroll counties.

(14) comments

DickD

If you Google defund police it's defined as cutting police funds by directing some police funds for other uses. Mike defines it as for a specific purpose, in this case for SRO officers. From what I can tell that is not the reason and if it was to happen would be up to the Chief of Police and the Sheriff.

threecents

I don't care what the "defund the police" movement wants. They are not in charge of our school system, so let's not make this issue about them. Maybe a police officer or SRO is a good idea in our schools or maybe it is "overkill" (sorry). Let's not pretend there are easy perfect solutions.

NewMarketParent

@threecents

My understanding of the "defund the police" movement is exact the same as reducing their responsibilities. The right has tried to re-frame it in order to build up a strawman that they can beat on.

It really is about lowering the number of things that police are responsible for. In theory, that would lower police budgets and we can put some of that money back into social services that would most likely result in fewer calls to the police.

There was an old saying that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure, but we seem to have forgotten that. Our police should not be responsible for dealing with every single problem that citizens have, but because we have slowly carved money away from social services, we have increasingly asked them to. It is not fair to them and it very often puts them in situations that they are not trained for. You take a situation like that and toss a gun in and it is not hard to imagine how things could possibly take a turn for the worse.

DickD

I have no problem with the SRO officers I have seen. They are doing a great job. I don't think patrolling hallways is a good idea though. Having them on campus and ready is what is important.

NewMarketParent

@DickD

One of the problems is that the SRO agents very often come with the same baggage as police. I believe we could honestly use more counselors and psychologists in the schools rather than SROs and we could use some school-wide safety nets for families that are struggling. I've heard of many a family that are barely holding on, while the kids go to school day after day in a household that is falling down around them. The kids may act out and a psychologist could make a better and longer-lasting difference than punishment.

yogib

Earlier in the past legislative session, Senator Hough brought his children and a few of their friends in to testify in favor of more guns and easier access. Now he is telling us that we need to spend money on SRO's that essentially do one thing, walk the halls carrying their sidearms. How hypocritical can you get. Most of the Sheriff's SRO' s are probably fine people, but they are not trained to deal with children. They are trained to enforce the law, which as we all have seen is sometimes enforcement without justice. Most of us agree that we do not need more guns in schools, but support staff to address the needs of students that get in the way of their education.

hayduke2

Yogis-[thumbup][thumbup]

gabrielshorn2013

"...but they are not trained to deal with children

And you know this how yogib? "Officer Smothers" in Middletown HS is an absolutely great SRO, trained to work with kids, and most of the kids there like him (except for the troublemakers, and the students know who they are). Maybe he is the exception, but I doubt it. Thing is, you don't need a cop...until you do. Parents overreacted earlier to an extremely unlikely event and demanded police coverage of schools. Now some people want them removed? Good luck with that.

yogib

good point but my point is that most children do not need special help, but the "trouble-makers' you reference are exactly the ones that need to be reached, and it takes a person who understands that to be of help to the teaching staff.

gabrielshorn2013

"Officer Smothers" has regular interactions with the "troublemakers", as well as the rest of the student population. That is the basis of community policing; get the citizenry used to seeing and interacting with the local officer, thus building trust. The "troublemakets" in school are identified, and the counseling staff within the school system engaged, diverting the kids from following the wrong path, and the consequences that follow.

dtwigg

I wish Hough would quit wasting everyone's time. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts it would be christmas every day of the year.

hayduke2

[thumbup][thumbup]

shiftless88

This is a tacit admission that there is zero desire to get at the root of the problem that put our kids in danger.

NewMarketParent

@shiftless88

Exactly and at some point they will follow up with asking for teachers to be armed. Normally, people would come in and say that that specific claim is hysterical, but it actually has been pitched (not here specifically and not yet).

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