MCPS signs Memorandum of Understanding, bringing Community Engagement Officers into schools


Image courtesy MCPS

The initial CEO program was enhanced to guide support from law enforcement in MCPS schools through the Memorandum of Understanding.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) announced a new agreement on 26 with the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) and the Montgomery County government called the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will enhance the program guiding support from law enforcement in MCPS schools. 

The MOU was created with collaborative work between the MCPD, MCPS and community input from students, parents and staff. This included 10 student focus groups of all three levels of education, parent focus groups at all high schools, youth-police dialogues with police representatives in every police district in MCPS, a virtual community conversation on student safety and well-being with over 1,000 participants, and county-wide student forums at all secondary schools in MCPS. In a statement released by MCPS, they announced that through these engagement activities they found “the Community Engagement Officer (CEO) Program is a necessary part of an informed, thoughtful and comprehensive response to address the safety of all students and staff.”

At the start of the current school year, uniformed police officers were removed from school buildings in MCPS and were replaced with the CEO program. Rather than having uniformed police officers stationed inside the schools, officers are now assigned to cover school clusters. CEOs are provided an office in the school building and given the authority to respond to student service calls. However, CEOs will not be permanently stationed inside schools and do not have any authority over student discipline or enforcing MCPS rules.                                   

The Memorandum of Understanding lists the duties of community engagement officers. The CEOs’ duties include serving as a liaison between their agency and MCPS officials for police-related concerns and incidents, handling school service calls with the responsibility of investigating the calls while minimizing disruption to the school day, delivering law enforcement programs such as DARE and crime prevention, staying informed regarding current gang trends and coordinating assistance at major school events when needed. While on MCPS property, CEOs will have full authority as police officers but are expected to acknowledge and work within the scope of the principal’s authority. 

Students advocated against the presence of police in schools and effectively removed the Student Resources Officer (SRO) program for the start of the current school year. Advocates for police-free schools argue that law enforcement in schools reinforces the criminalization of young students of color. “Study after study has shown the disproportionate effect this program (SRO) has had on the criminalization of Black, brown and disabled students. Despite the fact that no national or Maryland study has found that an increase in police presence decreases school violence,” Student Member of the Board Hana Olooney said in a statement to the Board of Education’s School Resource Officer Workgroup in 2021. 

After conversations with the students, parents and staff, MCPS came to the decision to bring law enforcement back into schools through the CEO program and the Memorandum of Understanding. “The important social-emotional and mental health support that we are putting in place along with this new agreement with our police partners is the right solution at this time,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa B. McKnight said.