To the editor:
It was truly something to witness firsthand the dismissive attitude of Alexandria’s City Council over the school resource officers issue. We are all aware that City Council chose to remove the SROs in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic without proper opportunity for public comment on the matter. In a joint council and School Board meeting, Councilor John Chapman said he did it that way to preserve the opportunity to have a discussion. There was no thought or plan for students’ physical safety when returning to school.
All middle and high school principals said they depended upon SROs to maintain adequate security. Several members of Alexandria’s School Board have adamantly reiterated their grave concerns over the safety of students, with escalating violence that ended up with one 14-year-old student recently being shot.
Parents are hearing about brawls every week and there is even an Instagram account solely dedicated to videos such fights. Alexandria City High School cannot even complete a football game without an entire crowd leaving in a stampede over what was thought to be a gunshot, but what turned out to be a firecracker.
This seems dire to everyone except City Council. Chapman says he only had “anecdotal” evidence that the SROs were helping a small percentage of students. Then at the Return the SROs rally, Councilor Canek Aguirre said there was “no evidence of gang violence in the schools.” He then dismissed the impassioned pleas of Principal PreAnn Johnson and a parent of a child who was bullied and got in a fight. Even former T.C. Williams Principal John Porter has practically begged council to keep the SROs.
While Chapman and Aguirre want conversations and forums, students are having weekly brawls that only seem to escalate, with administrators, counselors and even security guards being attacked in them.
What was the rationale behind this decision that went against every single stakeholder? It is due to the prioritization of the national “defund the police” and “restorative justice” narratives over the safety of our students. Despite the escalating violence, Chapman and Aguirre remain undeterred by our pleas.
When I was in ninth grade, I took gym for summer school at George Washington Middle School. After class we saw a group of teens scatter after a fight. We saw a teen laying across the street, bleeding. He later died of stab wounds. That was in the 90’s when we had “tame” gangs like the Bloods and the Crips. Now we have MS-13, 18th Street, Mob 4 Life and South Side Chirilagua. Beefs between rival gangs are likely the cause of several fights.
If you do not see a major threat to the safety of our students, you either are dangerously ignorant or care more about other priorities. What will happen, if, God forbid, there is a school shooting or stabbing such as the one that just happened in Annapolis and we do not have SROs in the school to intervene like they did?
It is time to return the SROs now and save the forums for when our children can go to school without fear.
-Liz Fuller, Alexandria