As protests against police brutality and systemic racism spread across the country, the Prince George’s County Board of Education is taking steps to cut ties with local police departments and further invest in mental health resources for students. 

The board’s budget committee voted Monday night on a recommendation to cancel its school resource officer contract with the Prince George’s County police and all municipal police, citing research that the presence of these officers is associated with higher rates of suspensions, expulsions and arrests of students.

According to the studies cited by the recommendation, this is especially true for minority students.

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A March 2018 study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found black students were overrepresented by over 20 percentage points in out-of-school suspensions and by nearly the same number of percentage points in school-related arrests, during the 2013-14 school year.

The full board of education will vote on the recommendation Thursday. The proposed change would give the board’s CEO, Monica E. Goldson, 60 days to provide a plan ensuring that the county meets the requirements of the Maryland Safe to Learn Act, which mandates that schools have adequate local law enforcement coverage.

The plan is set to include specifics on de-escalation training and cultural competency requirements for existing security staff. 

The resolution also includes a measure to amend the proposed school budget, adding $5 million to hire more social workers, mental health professionals and counselors who reflect student demographics. 

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Of the over 130,000 students enrolled in county public schools, 55 percent are black. Hispanic students make up the next largest share of the student body, at 36 percent. 

A measure within the resolution points to the paucity of mental health resources available to students across the country compared to increased investments in school policing as evidence for the necessity of the recommendation’s implementation.  

The resolution comes amid nationwide demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in Minneapolis police custody. Many protesters — including those who gathered for protests in Prince George’s County over the weekend — are calling for major reforms in policing, including the defunding of local departments.