Arrests in Howard County High Schools

Posted by on April 16, 2018

Corrected – 3:35 pm April 16, 2016. The previous analysis related specific offenses to race and school, but these results were removed until data can be confirmed. The number of arrests by race and school were not affected, and the number of arrests for different offenses have not been affected. Only the pairing of offenses with schools and race are in question.

African American students are 6 times more likely to be arrested in Howard County schools than white students. However, most of the arrests of African Americans occur in a few schools and most offenses were subjectively defined offenses (e.g. disorderly conduct). These results suggest that Howard County police may be profiling African American students in some schools in the school system.


County Executive Allan Kittleman and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano recently instituted a policy to increase police presence in Howard County schools following the shooting in Parkland FL.

The first signs of the new policy wetre observed in Oakland Mills High School where as many as 4 additional police officers were seen patrolling the school at a time when other schools had not seen any additional police activity.  Many students and parents reacted negatively to the increased police presence.  The students had not been told what was happening, and many were afraid something had happened in their school. Dr. Martirano generally dismissed these concerns saying the majority of parents are in favor of having more police in the schools.

A student at Oakland Mills high school, Samantha Mosely, conducted a survey of students and parents from the County on their thoughts about the increased police presence. More than half of students throughout the school system reported feeling safer with the presence of police in the school, but a high percentage of students felt less safe. The report was published on Google Docs:

Arrests in Howard County High Schools

My current post summarizes arrests of students in Howard County high schools in the 2015-2016 academic year.  The raw data were made available in MPIA Request number #2018-224 ( There were 202 arrests in Howard County high schools in 2015-2016 including 150 (74%) African Americans, 45 (22%) white students, and 7 (3%) Asians. Hispanic ethnicity was not reported.

African American students in Howard County were about 6 times more likely to be arrested than white students.  Across the county, 3.2% of African American high school students were arrested in a single year, and 0.6% of white students were.

Certain high schools appear to profile African American students and arrest far more students than other high schools (Figure 1).  There was a large variation in the percentage of African American students arrested in different schools ranging from 0 % to 8 %.  About 1 out of every 12 African American students in Oakland Mills was arrested in school in a single year.  A higher percentage of African American students were arrested in schools that have more African Americans enrolled.

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Figure 1. Percentage of African American students arrested in school in 2015-2016 for each high school in Howard County MD, as influenced by percentage of student body that is African American.

The percentage of arrests of African American students was substantially higher in 4 out of 5 of the high schools where at least 25% of students are African American (Oakland Mills, Wilde Lake, Hammond, and Long Reach).  For example, 40 students were arrested in Oakland Mills High School, the most of any school in the county.  All of them were African American.

Note that the number of white students arrested did not increase in schools with more African American students (Figure 2). The highest percentage (3%) was for Long Reach HS, in which many arrests were in the category “other”. We do not have data on the percentage of Hispanic students arrested, but Long Reach and Oakland Mills have the most Hispanic students enrolled.

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Figure 2. Percentage of white (including Hispanic) students arrested in school in 2015-2016 for each high school in Howard County MD, as influenced by percentage of student body that is African American.

How can we explain these results? 

Some might argue that African American students are particularly poorly behaved in certain schools, and they behave better in other schools. They might argue that the behavior of African Americans is generally worse in schools that have more African American students enrolled.  However, no other evidence supports this argument. Also, the fact that lower numbers of African Americans are arrested in Reservoir despite having 33% African American students suggests police or school policy has an impact.

A more likely explanation is that police profile African Americans in certain schools, and therefore make more arrests of them.  Schools that have more African Americans are especially targeted by police.  African Americans appear to be especially targeted in Oakland Mills high school. Recent experience in the school system supports this explanation.

Oakland Mills was the only high school in which several additional police officers were introduced immediately after the Parkland shooting. You should know that most school mass shootings have been in majority white schools, like Parkland or Sandyhook, by white students or alumni.  Why wasn’t the police presence focused on Glenelg or River Hill high schools?

The school system appears to have hidden what offenses were attributed to different races and schools.  However, the total for all offenses are shown in Table 1 below.  Most common offenses are assault, CDS Possession on school property, disorderly conduct and “other”.

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Note that most offenses were for things that did not lead to arrests in high school prior to when police Safety Resource Officers (SRO) were added. For example, fighting becomes assault. Being too loud becomes disorderly conduct.  Assault generally means fighting without a weapon and is not always prosecuted.  Disorderly conduct and other undefined offenses are subjective findings.

One common offense is possession of CDS on school property. CDS is Controlled Dangerous Substance, which includes a small amount of an illegal drug or legal drug (e.g. cough syrup) that is not permitted on school property. Possession of CDS on school property would be uncovered more frequently with increased searching and surveillance.

The most racially and economically integrated schools in Howard County are Oakland Mills, Wilde Lake, Long Reach, Hammond, and Reservoir.  The other seven high schools are districted to maintain majority white and Asian populations. It appears that 4 of the integrated schools have a high number of arrests, and many of the arrests in schools are for offenses that are subjective (e.g. disorderly conduct) or result from searching (e.g. CDS possession on school property).

8 comments on "Arrests in Howard County High Schools"

What is your source for pairing the Arresting Offense by school and race? The data source indicated (MPIA) does not include that information.


    The offenses are posted on the second page of the Excel file in same order.


      I was rechecking the description from the MPIA dataset online, and I noticed that they say they separated the data on the second page to protect confidentiality of minor offenders. This was an unnecessary procedure since the minors’ identity and the fact that they were arrested is confidential, not what students were arrested for in different schools. However, I will try to correct this information. For now, I do not know that what people were arrested for matches the race and school data, and I will remove it until I can verify it.


FYI, Parkville is in Baltimore County. Parkland is in Florida.


Thank you for digging into the data and presenting a report. I went to Wilde Lake High before there were SROs. Kids of all races got into fights. The fights (no weapons) were broken up and usually you received detention. No one got arrested.


I see that you have referenced the data provided by a student survey. That sample size only included 292 people and 162 of those surveyed are parents in that link you provided to the students report. Of that number only 74 surveyed were High School students. That seems like a small sampling size to say that such a small sample size represents the entire student population of Howard County. What schools did those students attend? and what was their race?

According to the HCPSS MPIA Request #2018-224 link the results you received from the HCPSS submission were only details collected from police reports for those incidents the local police indicated were student arrests (as HCPSS stated they were not yet collecting their own data). Did the information include only results that occurred on school grounds during school hours or does it include arrests made on school property after hours? On the web page I see they report statistics based on a normal calendar year from Jan 1 to Dec 31. Did HCPSS receive results based on all student arrests in 2015 and 2016 or just from the 1st day of school 2015 to the end of school year 2016? I noticed that assaults are not broken down to first degree or second degree assault. How does the decriminalization of Marijuana in 2014 effect the data, would that mean all the arrested students had more than ten grams of marijuana since they were arrested?

I know it’s wrong to assume that just based on race some children would be more prone to commit crimes. But have you taken into account any other factors such as family employment, income, public assistance, housing, and rates of substance abuse among children in those areas based on race. In reporting that several officers were immediately assigned to Oakland Mills High school after the Parkland FL shooting did you confirm that with the Howard County Police Department? HCPSS states on their website that they held Town-Hall meetings on school safety before implementing the new policy. Do you have any information on how many parents and students attended and provided input?


    I would say the student survey was not a scientific survey that attempted to proportionally represent all students. She doesn’t make that claim. It does show that some people felt safer and some felt less safe because of the added police.

    The arrest data were initially collected by police and then aggregated by the school system for the academic year. It appears to be arrests in the school. I don’t know about the decriminalization of marijuana effect, but the law says that any CDS within 1000 feet of a school is the offense, and that is a higher penalty, lower threshold for arrest than just anywhere.

    The police confirmed belatedly (last night) the police were in OM earlier for a training, although that doesn’t explain what students reported. OM students have still not been formally told about the policy as far as I know, but by now some have found out online and from their parents.


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