ANNAPOLIS — As the 2018 Maryland General Assembly wrapped Monday, lawmakers gave near-unanimous approval to a bill requiring a resource officer in every public high school in the state by the 2018-19 school year.
If an officer isn’t available, a school system can partner with local law enforcement to provide coverage for a high school.
“Three different committees worked on that bill,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., one of the 44 senators who approved the legislation. “It’s a lot of funding in that bill for school safety. It’s a very big bill that we passed.”
Only one senator voted against the bill: Paul Pinsky (D-District 22) of University Park, who disagrees with a portion of the bill that provides $10 million toward public safety protection.
Although the legislation designates funding for mental health services, it doesn’t specify how much each school system would receive.
A school safety subcabinet would establish an amount based on school officials who apply for grants and explain the use of the money. The six-member group would include these individuals or their designees: the state superintendent of schools; secretary of health; secretary of state police; attorney general; secretary Department of Disabilities; and executive director of Interagency Committee on School Construction.
“My concern is $10 million to respond to an incident, but no money to providing mental health services,” Pinsky said. “I think it is the wrong priorities. Funding to respond to an incident instead of funding to prevent an incident is wrong.”
After the February massacre at a Parkland, Florida, high school, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan proposed earmarking $175 million for school safety, including $125 million in capital improvements at schools and $50 million to pay for school resource officers, counselors and other technology.
One month later, a student at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County shot two fellow students, one fatally, before committing suicide when confronted by the school resource officer. The officer, who simultaneously fired a shot that struck the gunman in the hand, is credited with helping to end the incident.
Miller praised colleagues who pushed to ensure a bill passed this year, including Sen. Steve Waugh of St. Mary’s County, whose district includes the high school.
Maryland lawmakers approved setting aside more than $40 million in the budget for school safety improvements. With that funding, each school system requires a safety coordinator who must be certified by the Maryland Center for School Safety and serve as a liaison between school system, local law enforcement and the school safety center, located at the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center in Baltimore County.
A satellite office for the center would open at Bowie State University. Because of that, overall annual operations costs for the center would increase from $500,000 to $2 million.
By June 15, 2019, school officials must conduct an annual safety evaluation and develop solutions for safety and evaluate patterns of safety on school property and school-sponsored events.