Alexandria City Mayor Justin Wilson told WTOP that it’s going to take a multi-layered approach to respond to the stabbing.
“There’s not one solution. For 4,000 kids, there’s probably 4,000 different answers,” Wilson said. “The reality is, we have to work to provide a set of interventions and solutions that are going to work for each one of those kids, and that’s an individual discussion, but requires putting an array of services in place.”
He said that a response to the violence should be targeted interventions that include mental health services, counseling, gang prevention efforts and peer-to-peer interventions.
Wilson also said students being away from these types of services and away from the school building during the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted students’ social skills.
“A lot of those kind of basic skills and conflict resolution, capabilities, things like that, atrophied over the pandemic, and you put those kids back into that environment without those skills honed, and we had a challenge,” Wilson said.
Tuesday’s fight included dozens of students who got into a fight prior to the deadly stabbing. It happened about half a mile from both campuses of Alexandria City High School.
“It’s an absolute tragedy for our community, and one that I think is felt by every member of our community, our kids, our parents, or educators, and then our general community members,” Wilson said.
Amanda Kelley, PTSA president at Alexandria City High School, said it’s been a tough week for both parents and students.
“We’re worried about our students,” Kelley said. “I think people are worried about their mental health, first and foremost, we want to support them in any way we can.”
She said that when students at Alexandria City High School return to physical classrooms for the first time since the stabbing, they will be greeted by parents, teachers and other staff members holding signs of support.
The fight and stabbing prompted the high school to conduct synchronous virtual learning for the rest of the week. With the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, the next time students will be in person is on Tuesday.
“We just want the kids to feel welcomed back, feel safe and supported,” Kelley said.
She said that a focus on mental health support and counseling is crucial to getting students back on track emotionally.
“I think that would be wonderful to have more mental health support, but I know that the realistic side of that is that it’s really hard to find those counselors,” Kelley said.
Wilson said that the violence hit close to home for him and his family.
“I have an 11th grader at Alexandria City High School, and a younger one who’ll be there next year, and this is something that’s certainly personal for all of us,” Wilson said.