BALTIMORE — On February 8, just this past winter, a chaotic scene outside Frederick Douglass High School that terrified students and their parents.
Police say a man with a gun entered the school and shot a hall monitor just beyond the school's vestibule; 25-year-old Neil Davis was arrested for shooting and wounding 56-year-old Michael Marks.
“That changed the game, and we need to make sure that we have all tools available in order to protect our staff and students in Baltimore City Schools,” said Sergeant Clyde Boatwright.
Boatwright can't forget that day.
While his officers with city schools police were able to subdue Davis, their firearms were checked into a safe in the school office per state law.
City schools police cannot carry inside schools in Baltimore and the Douglass shooting, Boatwright says, exposed that blind spot.
“You have a trained certified police officer that is trained to respond to an active shooter situation that cannot defend the school where he is supposed to be the first line of defense,” the sergeant said.
The Douglass shooting reinvigorated the debate in Annapolis this past winter where lawmakers were considering a bill to allow school police to carry inside schools.
But even with renewed interest, the bill never made it past the Baltimore City Delegation, who voted it down.
But city schools police plan to renew the push next year, partly based on incidents like Douglass, and also the increase they themselves are seeing of seized firearms inside schools.
According to Baltimore City Public Schools, 25 firearms have been recovered since 2015, an average of about six guns per school year.
But per calendar year, it is a stark rise from two in 2015, to 10 in 2018, and police say lawmakers should note.
The Baltimore City Public Schools system told WMAR 2-News that it only holds onto data going back a few years, so we can only see this most recent trend.
We were also denied access to any of the police reports surrounding these seizures because the school system cited the involvement of juveniles, but the incidents are city wide, the caliber of the guns vary, and they are being recovered from high schools to elementary schools.
“They've pulled out these 25 guns, and they've been able to so it without guns themselves,” said Baltimore City Delegate Brooke Lierman who remains unconvinced.
Lierman is part of the majority in the city delegation which decisively voted no in Annapolis.
The delegate, who says she has a child in city schools, says lawmakers have yet to see any real evidence that armed SRO's make schools safer.
“It's a really tough issue. We are trying to do our best by looking at the actual evidence that exists. People can argue at me all day, I hear your arguments, but I want to see the evidence because that is the only way we can cut through the opinions to get to what we think could really work and really keep our kids safe.”
And until then, Lierman says, there is no political will to change the law.
“Since 2015, homicide numbers have exploded in this city and so has the gun recoveries in our schools,” Lierman said.
But Boatwright says even general crime numbers should force lawmakers’ hands, with the issue punctuated by the close call that was Douglass High School.
It's an argument sure to be renewed in 2020.