This is an action alert from our partners at Bonimot Tzedek. Bonimot Tzedek is a Jewish social justice program for DC-area teens.
In the Spirit of Passover, Montgomery County Jewish Youth Demand Police Free Schools and Comprehensive Mental Health Resources as an Alternative
Dear Montgomery County Council Members,
We, Jewish youth of Montgomery County, are reaching out to you in solidarity with students across MCPS who have called for the removal of police from schools and investment in increased mental health services in place of police. As high schoolers and their allies, we’ve seen the direct and disproportionate impact of police in schools on Black, Latinx, and disabled students in Montgomery County Schools. We are asking the County Council to support the call for police free schools by ensuring that the budget includes 2.6 million dollars to support posting licensed clinical social workers in every MCPS high school.
Shivyon Erech Ha’adam is the Jewish belief that there is equality in human value. Every year on Passover we learn about the injustice of slavery that Jews faced in the land of Egypt. We have learned about this injustice and can not stand by and watch our peers be similarly oppressed. In this case, School Resource Officers stand against every Jewish value we’ve been taught. They criminalize and intimidate students who are simply trying to learn. The presence of School Resource Officers directly opposes the belief in Shivyon Erech Ha’adam, in that as long as there are police in our schools, students are not treated as though they have equal value. We know that we are not yet truly free until all of our peers are free from police violence, especially in schools. MCPS needs professionals whose actual job is to help students who are struggling.
If we are expecting SROs to act as clinical social workers and mentors for students, why not simply hire clinical social workers as mentors, who can not and will not arrest students for their misconduct? Clinical social workers are proven to help and support kids. They are trained in proactively supporting students’ various emotional and mental health needs. School Resource Officers, on the other hand, have received inadequate training on student’s mental health and reactively criminalize students for typical adolescent behaviors. Though initially hired to protect students from crisis events, School Resource Officers have been proven to make school shootings three times more deadly, according to new research from JAMA. If School Resource Officers are not serving to protect students from school shootings and other violent threats, what is the reason for their station in schools?
As we, the Jewish community, celebrate the idea of freedom this Passover, we recognize that we are not truly free until everyone in our community is free. And as the Council enters the budget season, we underscore that budgets are moral documents which outline Montgomery County’s financial priorities. The budget, as it stands, funds the criminalization of students over mental health support. Therefore, we urge you, the County Council, to fully support the calls for police free schools and fund the effort to station social workers at every Montgomery County High School.