ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares urged Alexandria officials to strengthen their ties with the city’s school resource officers in a letter written on Wednesday.
The letter, sent to the Alexandria City Council, Alexandria School Board, and Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said Miyares is willing to offer the full support and resources of his office toward ensuring Alexandria students have a safe learning environment free from violence.
The letter comes after police arrested a teenager in connection with the stabbing death of 18-year-old Alexandria City High School student Luis Mejia Hernandez in late May. Authorities say Mejia Hernandez died after a fight involving dozens of students on a property near the high school campus.
"I urge you to work more closely with local law enforcement, the Virginia State Police, and the local Commonwealth Attorney as partners in preventing and reporting violent criminal behavior in, and around, our schools,” Miyares’ letter reads.
The attorney general also asked Alexandria leaders to continue to rely on their use of SROs after nearly two years of debate of what role those officers should have in local campuses.
Alexandria City Public Schools started the 2021-20221 school year without SROs, before reinstating them three months later at the request of school leaders.
"I encourage you to strengthen your commitment to these dedicated men and women [SROS], and to proactively reject arguments against their presence in the City's schools,” Miyares states. “As you begin the year, I hope you continuously evaluate success and determine whether the number of SROS being placed in Alexandria Schools is adequate to address the needs of the school division."
This spring, the Alexandria City Council and Mayor Wilson approved an ACPS request to continue funding SROs in all secondary schools in the division through the 2022-2023 school year.
New interim ACPS superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt also announced the school division had worked to improve WiFi and PA systems in its campuses for security purposes and will continue to conduct delayed dismissal for students this school year.
Wilson said Alexandria leaders received Miyares’ letter Wednesday morning and that both the school system and council will provide a written response Thursday.
Wilson, a parent of two ACPS students, said he is a strong supporter of efforts to keep the city’s schools safe.
“If the Attorney General wants to be part of that discussion, we will welcome that,” he said.
However, Wilson added he was concerned Miyares may be trying to make a political game out of the issue.
“It is somewhat telling that the Attorney General sent his letter to the media a few minutes after he sent it to us,” he said. “That tells me he’s not trying to be part of the solution, he’s trying to play politics with our children.”
We don’t need letters from Richmond. We need funding and good policies to support our students.”
Alexandria City School Board Chair Meagan Alderton released a statement of her own in which she said she took offense to Miyares not directly addressing her in his letter.
“As an elected official, and a Black woman, leading the most diverse school division in the Commonwealth, I would expect that I be addressed specifically when our state leaders are referencing suggested changes for a school division that serves a majority of students of color,” she said. “I was disappointed to see that Mayor Wilson was specifically named in this letter from Virginia Attorney General Jason S. Miyares, and I was not given a specific salutation and addressed as the chair of the School Board.”
Alderton added that ACPS staff has already shared with local families the school division’s commitment to safety and the new security measures it is using this year on its campuses.
“ACPS has been working with our School Law Enforcement Partnership (SLEP) Advisory Group to increase internal and external stakeholder involvement with the partnership between ACPS and the Alexandria Police Department,” she said. “Its mission is to assist ACPS leadership, the superintendent and the School Board in reimagining the school law enforcement partnership with the Alexandria Police Department in order to ensure a positive, safe and equitable school experience for all students. The advisory group will assist in the continued development and refinement of the partnership as well as establish recommendations to present to the School Board and superintendent in December 2022.”
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