Alexandria considers keeping school resource officers

The school board in Alexandria, Virginia, is reviewing a report by an advisory group formed to determine the future of the School Resource Officer program in its schools.

The School Law Enforcement Partnership (SLEP), made up of community members, the Alexandria Police Department, city representatives, and public school students and staff, presented the 28-page report during a school board meeting Thursday.

The advisory group’s overarching recommendation calls for the school board to work with the city council in continuing SRO funding for the program.

Namratha Bharadwaj, part of the advisory team, told the board that there had been instances in the past where SRO presence had been beneficial and would likely be so in the future.

“The group believes that removing SROs would send a message to many families and community members that ACPS does not take safety seriously, the opposite of which is true,” Bharadwaj said.

The city council and school system moved away from the SRO program in 2021, following the George Floyd protests, but several months later, the council voted to temporarily reinstate resource officers after multiple fights among students and several incidents involving weapons.

The issue came to a head last spring after a senior at Alexandria City High School was stabbed to death during a massive brawl that broke out last spring among a group of students near the school.

After a lengthy review process, the advisory group recommended tweaking the SRO program to provide a more holistic approach to safety, including yearly de-escalation training, implementing a policy to promptly inform parents when an incident occurs, conducting an independent study to explore why minority students are arrested at higher rates and researching alternative education programs for students who get in trouble while keeping them on track for graduation.

The school board will now review and finalize the 17 recommendations before voting on them.

The city council, which funds the SRO program, will ultimately have to decide if it should be permanently restored.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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