After a series of episodes involving guns and Alexandria City Public Schools, parents and the superintendent are urging that school resource officers once again roam the campus.
“I’m pleading with our city council this evening that we reinstate our school resource officers immediately. We cannot wait for extended conversations about this matter as this situation has really escalated,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said.
Hutchings pointed to a student who brought a gun to Alexandria High School on Wednesday and, separately, a student who was shot at a nearby McDonald’s in late September.
Both incidents happened after Hutchings previously expressed concern about student safety at a September school board meeting.
But it is not only the threat of gun violence that has sparked urgent talk about police in Alexandria schools.
One parent furiously told the school board during Thursday night’s meeting that SROs need to come back immediately.
“Kids are getting assaulted, innocent kids are getting assaulted on a daily basis. We are trying to help a few when the many or being traumatized,” Ricardo Roberts said.
“My son, he wants to go back to virtual. At least there he’s safe. He was beat up last week — again.”
During a joint committee meeting with the city council, school board member Veronica Nolan echoed similar concerns:
“I can anecdotally share in my six years as a school board member, I have never heard of this many altercations in one month, let alone in a year’s time. And I can candidly say, as a parent, I’m getting really tired of having to be the first question I ask my own son is: ‘Was there a fight today?'”
Superintendent Hutchings informed staff earlier in the week about the recommendation he was going to make before the school board.
“And before I could literally finish my statement, it was almost a round of applause. I mean, the staff are like overjoyed, please go out and plead for us. We need this resource in our schools, and I just have to say that we really need some more services and we need the safety measures.”
He said school resource officers were a deterrent to help prevent violent crime.
Some community activists argue SROs hamper minority students, and they pay close attention to, and may even harass, students of color.
In May, the city council, against the school board’s wishes, voted to eliminate the $789,909 for the SRO program from the 2022 budget. It was redirected to fund more mental health therapists, a human services specialist, a mentoring partnership coordinator and an additional public health nurse.
Hutchings said the city council will take a closer look at adding funding for SROs in the coming weeks.