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Bill seeks to create public safety director at all DC high schools

The legislation introduced by Ward 5 Councilmember Zachary Parker comes at a time when the debate over School Resource Officers heats up in the District.

WASHINGTON — Ward 5 Councilmember Zachary Parker has introduced legislation to address concerns over student safety as the District grapples with a series of violent crimes involving youth.

The bill proposes a new position at all high schools known as a School Safety Assistant Director. The role would assure the safety of students and coordinate the communication between government agencies and schools. 

"They will have full time teams that will focus solely on public safety," said Councilmember Parker to WUSA9. 

Parker says the School Safety Enhancement Amendment Act of 2023 provides new resources to prevent and respond to school safety incidents. 

On March 16, a student was robbed at gunpoint outside of Coolidge High School in Northwest. According to Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) a driver got out of his car with a gun and demanded that the student hand over his coat. The student complied.

As the suspect headed back to his car, he discharged his weapon and shot the ground which prompted calls about shots fired on the 6300 block of 5th Street Northwest.  The incident prompted a school lockdown with the D.C. Chancellor inside the high school. 

Parker says the legislation addresses the safety needs as well as concerns over the number of youth involved in the justice system. 

"Many have called for non-police forms for safety in schools, so we believe accomplish both of these things to address the constraints that schools face and also non-police personnel," said Parker.

Parker's bill was introduced as the D.C. Council reconsiders legislation that would keep School Resource Officers (SROs) in both public and charter schools. In 2021 they voted to remove SROs by 2025.

Parker's proposal would not amend the SRO legislation. The Ward 5 representative says he still has not made up his mind on whether the officers should stay or go. 

The bill is being cosponsored by Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Janeese Lewis-George, Kenyan McDuffie, Brianne Nadeau, and Robert White. 

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