The recent school tragedies – both the local stabbing death of an Alexandria City High School student and school massacre in Uvalde, Texas – have left Alexandrians and our nation shaken.
Our city has endured violence by and to school aged children this entire school year, from numerous brawls in city schools to the alleged sexual assault in the Minnie Howard campus last October to the fatal shooting of a teenager – whose identity has not been released – last month during an alleged car-jacking attempt to last week’s heartbreak.
That’s a lot of tragedy and sadness and fear to process in a short time period. There’s a lot for the Alexandria City Public Schools task force on school safety to consider. We think everything should be on the table for this task force, and ultimately our elected School Board and City Council, to contemplate.
Should both ACHS campuses be locked down? What kind of security presence, and how many personnel, is adequate in ACPS? Should two grades be located in each building and transport between the two campuses eliminated?
Should we reconsider the one mega high school approach, which, from where we sit, isn’t working so well, and plan for another, and possibly two more separate high schools in Alexandria? There are few cities our size with only one public high school. Maybe they’ve figured out something we haven’t.
ACPS issued changed guidelines late last week surrounding lunch, presence on campus and transport between the main and Minnie Howard campus.
However, given that there were only four days left in the school year, and that most high school students are learning virtually this week, this can only be viewed as a short-term fix. The four-day solution is likely not the complete answer for the 2022-2023 school year and beyond.
Finger-pointing is counterproductive in the aftermath of mistakes and tragedies large and small, but accountability is vital to preventing repeats. There’s a fine line between the two, and real accountability is often obscured by spin, while finger-pointing is used for ideological and political gain.
Simply put, school policies that seemingly allowed for up to 50 students to be at Bradlee shopping center during the school day must be not only permanently changed, but effectively enforced. And students who commit violent crimes must be punished.
We are sliding, as a city and a nation, into a culture of criminality.
Businesses are closing because shoplifting is rampant and perpetrators are not sought, and not prosecuted in the rare instances when they are apprehended. Residents are told to lock their cars while filling up their gas tanks because of the very real threat of being car-jacked.
Our children are not safe in our public schools. There is no other reasonable conclusion to draw after events not only of this year, but the past several years.
Yes, assault rifles need to be banned. But thankfully, those weapons were wholly unrelated to the problems in Alexandria described above.
There are no easy answers to the problems described above. Ideological rigidity is going to make it extremely difficult to make real progress in safeguarding our city, and particularly our public schools, from violence.
We all need to take a step back from our firmly held beliefs and consider alternatives. And we really, really need a summer break.