Alexandria City Council discusses how to reduce violence among students

In the wake of a recent deadly stabbing near Alexandria City High School, the city council talked Monday night about how to reduce violence among students in the Northern Virginia city.

Alexandria City Mayor Justin Wilson said it’s going to take a number of steps to address safety among students in the city.

“There’s a realization that no one thing is going to be the solution,” Wilson said.

A draft memo about addressing youth violence in the area put together by Alexandria City Mayor Justin Wilson and Councilmember Alyia Gaskins was discussed by the council at Monday’s work session.

The memo proposes the council hold a summit for youth safety and violence prevention this summer and put together a citywide plan to address youth violence by September.

“We still have kids that slip through the cracks in this community,” Wilson said.

Many of the council members echoed the idea that involving parents, students, business owners and other community members in the process of creating a plan could help with coming up with a sound solution.

“I think it really is a starting point, a starting point and a call to action to give space for us to listen to our young people,” Gaskins said.

The memo says that in order to support youth and to prevent violence, the city needs to engage a diverse range of stakeholders to listen to the experiences of students.

It continues, saying that refining and reforming systems in place to address violence includes the following:

  • Addressing youth trauma and mental health;
  • Coordinating across sectors to identify challenges;
  • Identifying metrics and transparent processes;
  • Target investments at identified gaps;
  • Prioritize equity.

“I think this really is a picking up of the role that we’ve been charged with which is to care for our city and care for our residents,” Gaskins said. “This cannot be a one and done, this doesn’t end after one meeting.”

She also said that there needs to be an awareness as well that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on youth and that needs to be addressed.

Councilmember Sarah Bagley said during the meeting that there has to be an emphasize on mental health in this plan as well.

“Centering the students and parents in this process is going to be really important,” Bagley said. “Mental health is nonnegotiable.”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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