Montgomery County High School Sees Shooting After County Council Removed Student Resource Officers, Police

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Chrissy Clark Contributor
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A 15-year-old student was shot in a high school bathroom just a few months after Maryland’s leftist Montgomery County council removed police and student resource officers from school buildings, according to local news reports.

Montgomery County police confirmed that 17-year-old Steven Alston Jr. is suspected of shooting a 15-year-old classmate at Colonel Zadok Magruder High School on Jan. 21, according to WJLA Washington D.C. A Maryland judge ruled that Alston will be held in jail without bond, WTOP reported.

The Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) believes the teen purchased a “privately manufactured firearm,” commonly referred to as a “ghost gun,” to commit the attack.

The firearm assault was the first to take place on a Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) district campus after the county’s council members opted to remove student resource officers (SROs) from school buildings after 19 years. James D’Andrea, the chief of staff to the MCPS superintendent, told The Washington Post that the district will direct emergencies to 911.

“The biggest change is … that schools will not directly contact the engagement officers as they did in the past,” D’Andrea said. “All calls for service will go to 911 or non-emergency services.”

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 35 said in a statement obtained by WJLA that the Magruder school shooting was a “public policy failure.”

“This again is another public policy failure where there was no plan to secure our schools after removing SROs, [which] supplemented school security,” FOP Lodge 35 said. “Without thoughtful planning which would include input from school staff, parents, students, law enforcement, etc.”

FOP Lodge 35 did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.

The push to remove SROs from MCPS schools began in Nov. 2020, according to Bethesda Magazine. Council members Will Jwando and Hans Riemer, alongside leftist groups such as Maryland ACLU and the Democratic Socialists of America, promoted the removal of police from schools. They argued that arresting students who violate laws is akin to “giving up” on them.

“I recognize that occasionally there are serious, violent incidents of threats that indeed may require an arrest,” Riemer said. “But, as a general practice, arresting a student is giving up on that student.”

County Executive Marc Elrich, a self-proclaimed “progressive,” is credited with removing full-time SROs from schools. According to testimony delivered on his behalf, Elrich called to reallocate funding for police by “replacing officers with a team of mental health professionals and providing adequate law enforcement coverage through alternate means.”

Elrich told Bethesda Magazine that he believes it’s unclear whether an SRO could have prevented the Magruder High School shooting.

“We don’t know what the effect of an SRO would have been or would not have been in this particular case, which is why we’re talking about it and trying to understand what happened, what you would do differently, and how we might modify what we’re doing,” Elrich said.

Elrich did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.

MCPS spokesman Chris Cram told the Daily Caller that the district plans to conduct a “comprehensive review of all school safety and security practices” and “review the staffing of school-based personnel and emergency response procedures.” Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight said the district is considering reinstituting the SRO program.

Police Chief Marcus Jones issued updates on the MCPD investigation into the Magruder shooting during a Monday press conference. Jones said that there were students “possibly present” in the bathroom at the time of the shooting. The police chief claimed that the onlookers opted to tweet about the shooting they witnessed instead of calling 911 or notifying faculty.

Jones also said that it took approximately seven minutes for the district’s “community engagement officer” — which replaced SROs — to arrive on the scene. The MCPD arrived before the engagement officer. Community engagement officers were tasked with patrolling areas around the school, though they are not in direct communication with school officials, according to the Post. (RELATED: REPORT: Suspected Oxford High School Shooter Ethan Crumbley To Plead ‘Not Guilty’) 

The Daily Caller did not receive a response from the Patrol Service Unit, which reportedly contracted student resource officers to Montgomery County schools.

Montgomery County saw a parent-wide effort to remove SROs from schools as well. The Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) for MCPS called for the district to reallocate money spent on SROs to “restorative justice” practices, according to a resolution from the PTA. The resolution attempted to prohibit the district from “contracting with police departments to station officers in schools.”

According to MCPS’ data, there were initially 26 SROs working across the district’s 25 high schools and one alternative program before the program was nixed. The same data set found that MCPS SROs were more likely to issue “paper arrests,” wherein an officer outsources the school or Department of Juvenile Services to deal with a situation, rather than opting for a traditional arrest.

Activists, such as the MCPS PTA, mimicked the language of “Defund the Police” activists who argue that policing is inherently racist. MCPS’ data shows that minority students are more likely to commit crimes than their white counterparts. Between 2017 and 2018 MCPS saw 52 instances of students bringing weapons to school, 48 of which were perpetrated by minority students.