Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares visited Alexandria High School Monday, meeting with officials he disagreed with several months ago over the role of police in schools following a stabbing near the school that killed a student.
Miyares toured the city’s only high school upon invitation from City of Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson.
In the first week of classes back in August, Miyares urged Wilson and the school system to “draw a hard line against crime” and take advantage of state funding for police officers in schools. This came months after 18-year-old senior Luis Hernandez was fatally stabbed in May during a fight involving dozens of young people at the Bradlee Shopping Center, located half a mile from the high school’s campuses.
In a statement, Miyares called the meeting on Monday “productive.”
“As the proud product of public schools, I’m particularly passionate about making sure that every public school student not only has access to a quality education, but a safe environment to learn,” Miyares said.
Wilson said in a statement that he appreciated that Miyares took the time to learn about the school and to see the “full diversity of the students we serve.”
Alexandria City Public Schools teach students who come from than 145 countries and who speak 132 languages.
“We will continue the dialogue to inform the policymaking process in Richmond and identify ways that Richmond can help students thrive,” Wilson said.
In a news release, city officials said the visit was a chance to address concerns about safety in schools, as well as showing Miyares the school community.
Last March, Alexandria city schools decided to keep school resource officers station on campus for an additional year, while the school system examined the program and the future of police in schools. The city council voted to eliminate school resource officers in May 2021 against the school board’s wishes, but reinstated the program in October 2021.
As the school year began in 2022 and after Hernandez’s death, the school system announced new security enhancements that included middle and high schoolers carrying student IDs and having specific entrances for students, staff and visitors to ensure each campus is able to monitor who comes and goes.
“We agree on the importance of students being able to grow and thrive in a safe learning environment and assured him of the close partnership between our school division, Alexandria Police Department and other agencies that promote the well-being of children,” city officials said in a statement Monday.
Miyares said that he was able to share some concerns he had and offer the resources of his office.
“I look forward to working together with the Alexandria City officials to make sure parents feel confident that their children will be safe at school,” he said.
Miyares invited Alexandria City High School students who are foster children or identify as immigrants and refugees to visit the state capitol during the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session in January or February 2023, to gain a better understanding of their new home in Virginia, according to a news release.
The attorney general also met with leaders in the community, including City Manager Jim Parajon, Alexandria Police Department Chief Don Hayes, Alexandria City Public Schools Interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt and Alexandria City High School Executive Principal Peter Balas.