Students, staff have split opinions on removal of SROs

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Photo by Jake Dolan

Security guard Ivan Hicks surveys the area during lunch on Sept. 17.

Following in the footsteps of several other counties in the DMV area, Montgomery County Public Schools are reopening without police officers in their high schools for the first time since 2002. Alexandria and Arlington are two other countries in the DMV area who ended their School Resource Officer programs earlier in the year. The former School Resource Officer (SROs) program will be replaced with a new Community Engagement Officers program, citing racial equity and student safety as their main concerns. 

Since early 2020, groups of activists have been arguing against the need for SROs in schools, claiming that it was leading to a disproportionate number of arrests and disciplining of Black, Latino and disabled students. Following MCPS’s decision came waves of controversy from parents, staff and students all concerned about what the suspension of the SRO program means for safety in schools.

According to an official MCPS statement, the new Community Engagement Officers will be based off campus, and not stationed in schools. They will not enforce MCPS policies or regulations, and will not be in direct contact with school administration or security. All calls for police service will be to 911 or a non-emergency police number.

I can understand some of the concerns the students and parents may have had with SROs and students, maybe not at Wootton, but at other schools.”

— Keith Yanity

Social Studies teacher Keith Yanity said he feels perfectly safe with the replacement of SROs and isn’t stressing too much about the reasoning behind their removal. “I can understand some of the concerns the students and parents may have had with SROs and students, maybe not at Wootton, but at other schools,” Yanity said. 

Junior Rachel Resnick also said she understands the reasoning behind the removal of SROs and she feels less safe without them. “If an incident were to occur at school, I don’t feel it would be handled as well or as quickly as if SROs were still around,” Resnick said. 

Security guard Ivan Hicks said he feels that the biggest difference between the new Community Engagement Officers and old SROs is what they can and cannot do. “People have a specific view for what type of job they [officers] do. Community Engagement Officers are quite different in terms of the law piece – they can’t arrest, check student bodies or do much of what the SROs could,” Hicks said.

Hicks has heard plenty of reasons behind the removal of SROs, but believes they are more opinion than fact. “I’ll leave it at that,” Hicks said.