By J. K. Schmid, AFRO Baltimore Staff
Students of the Baltimore Algebra Project seized the floor of a Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) board meeting, Jan. 22.
The time and space of the 6 p.m. public hearing at district offices was primarily dedicated to the issue of arming Baltimore City Public Schools Police with firearms.
Cheryl A. Casciani, chair of the BCPS Board of School Commissioners, confronts members of the Algebra Project during most recent school board meeting. (Photo: J.K. Schmid)
Del. Cheryl Glenn’s House Bill 31, first read by the Maryland General Assembly January 9, seeks to carve out a special exemption for the firearms ban in Baltimore City public schools. School resource officers on public school property will be the bill’s new and only exemption from the ban.
BCPS Police President Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, has been advocating for the arming of resource officers in Baltimore City’s 105 public schools since last year.
“We urge a favorable vote, we urge that this measure passes,” Boatwright said to the board. “That’s all we ask, pass forward.”
As part of his remarks, Boatwright acknowledged his union’s unchanged position and the mounting resistance to the proposal.
“I’m reading some of the emails from some of the organized groups and some of the language that I read is very interesting,” Boatwright said. “I see a lot of ‘likely,’ ‘could,’ but there’s no substantive data to support that it will do harm to students by having an armed police officer.”
Mere minutes prior to Boatwright taking the microphone, attorney Kimberly R. Humphrey of the
Maryland Coalition to Reform School Discipline, had submitted into the record a study of the deleterious impact of police contact between adolescent students and police and both the dubious prospect of reducing school violence through additional investment in law enforcement.
“Some of the language I see in these emails and these position papers, it’s like we’re a bunch of animals that just can’t wait to get over the kids, and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Boatwright said.
Long-time Baltimore City community activist and 1960 graduate of Frederick Douglass Senior High School, Leo Burroughs, Jr., also testified.
“We didn’t tolerate the foolishness that’s happening now in our city, in regards to our students; beating up teachers, et cetera.,” Burroughs said. “I don’t want to get off track, but what I am suggesting is that we are not tough enough. We can be compassionate, we can de-escalate, I believe in all of that. I am a long-term scout master in the city for 55 years. So we’re very compassionate, but we’re very tough.”
The last five-minute slot was allotted to the students of the Baltimore Algebra Project, returning again and again to the message: “No Education, No Life,” during the remainder of the meeting.
Approximately a dozen students walled off the board from the audience and distributed their demands, including a national student Bill of Rights.
Emphasis was placed on “Right Six”, the right to safe and secure public schools. “Students and youth shall have the right to safe and secure public school facilities of equal quality regardless of wealth, poverty or place of residence.”
“A part of safe a secure school is not having students in class with guns in the building,” John Gray said, during the demonstration.
Gray also cited a survey of students’ relationship with their resource officer, claiming a 51 percent disapproval rating of said officers by said students.
“Think about who these schools serve, these schools serve students,” Unique Chisholm said. “If students say ‘no,’ you need to rethink why it is that you think putting guns in school is okay.”
“You have been heard, and we demand,” said Board Chair Cheryl A. Casciani before being cut off. “The school board is gonna vote on this in due order.”
Casciani left her chair and confronted the students directly. When rebuffed, she and the remainder of the board gave up the floor and retreated via their exclusive entrance/exit.
“If anybody on the board does want to talk about it, we’re here,” Chisholm said as she and Gray and Daijah Hill took their seats to offer additional testimony. No member of the board returned.