Committee: House Judiciary and House Ways & Means
The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in OPPOSITION to House Bill 1247. The Conference represents the public-policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders. We offer this testimony on behalf of the families of more than 50,000 students served by over 150 PreK-12 Catholic schools in Maryland.
House Bill 1247 would require every public and nonpublic school in the State to have either two trained individuals who have a handgun permit and carry a handgun or two trained and armed school resources officers.
Through its recent “Statement on School Violence”, the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) strongly acknowledged that efforts to curb school violence must be undertaken. NCEA called for Catholic schools to have access to “funds for school security systems, rapid alert systems for local police, funds for guards or entrance security, teacher training….on an opt-in basis.” However, requisite armed security personnel are not a measure we endorse. If were funding provided for armed security, it should be done so on an “opt-in basis”, leaving schools free to decide how to best address their unique security needs. Moreover, many faith-based schools may conscientiously object to the presence of firearms in their buildings.
In fact, the State of Maryland already takes steps to ensure a safer school day for tens of thousands of nonpublic school children. The Nonpublic School Safety Grant Program currently provides grants to schools specifically for school security improvements. Through that program, schools can complete safety improvements such as auto-locking security doors, locking hardware, security systems with video capabilities, locking safety windows and safety lighting. Additionally, lower-income schools received enhanced grant funding to aid their schools, which many would not have been able to complete without the program.
The safety of the children educated by our Catholic schools is paramount. However, requiring armed security personnel at every school is not the way to address security concerns. Our school parents are thankful for the way the State is already partnering to protect its nonpublic school students and emphatically opposes the new measures put forth by House Bill 1247. It is for these reasons we urge an unfavorable report for House Bill 1247.