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The Alexandria City Council voted to temporarily reinstate school resource officers after teacher and parent outcry over a spate of violent fights at the public schools, which some have blamed on the council voting to do away with the officers last spring.
“If our schools are deemed or even perceived unsafe, this impedes our ability to fulfill this mission and we know that teaching, learning and are thwarted when our students and staff are not provided with he optimal learning environment,” said Alexandria Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings at the city council meeting.
The city council ultimately voted 4-3 to temporarily reinstate SROs in schools, after more than six hours of debate on the matter Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning, ABC 7 reported.
“Our students are sending us warning shots, literally warning shots,” Peter Balas, Alexandria City High School Principal said at the meeting. “Please reconsider this. My staff, my students. We’re not okay.”
The Alexandria City Council decided in May – following a year of national protests calling for police departments be defunded – to remove the school resource officers, and reallocate $800,000 in funding to hire mental health counselors.
The resource officers were removed at the beginning of this school year.
Repeated videos soon surfaced of students brawling and fighting on various school campuses, which parents and teachers said is due to lack of SROs on campuses. A shooting even occurred just a few blocks from Alexandria High School and injured a student in September, and a student was arrested last week for allegedly bringing a gun to school.
“This was going to happen,” one parent told ALXnow earlier this year after video surfaced of students brawling in Alexandria City High School’s cafeteria. “Take away the police from inside schools and you’re going to see people get hurt.”
Parents also held a rally to get resource officers back on public school campuses earlier this school year.
“We’re out here today because we are parents and citizens who are concerned about mounting violence in Alexandria schools,” parent Liz Fuller told ABC 7 at the time. “There’s been brutal fights, where administrators and security guards have gotten pushed down along with the students.”
Some activists, however, say the presence of resource officers intimidates minority students and funds would be better spent on other initiatives, such as mental health.
“What I’m saying is that we need a lot of moral support. What is the mental support? Mental health support is so important for our kids and for staff,” said one local activist, Evelin Urrutia of the nonprofit Tenants & Workers United of Alexandria.
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