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'You have done nothing to help our kids' | Advisory board to study safety and school resource officer program in Alexandria City Public Schools

The advisory board comes as student arrests increase.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Editor's Note: The video above was published on March 25, 2022.

It's a topic that's been on a lot of our minds - school safety.  Some students in Alexandria said they don't feel safe in their buildings after a number of fights, lockdowns and weapons were found in school. 

It has been a turbulent school year in some Alexandria City Public Schools - for parents and students.

“You have done nothing to help our kids,” ACPS parent Ricardo Richards told the school board last week.

“Why is it that we have to go to school, sometimes, afraid because all of these crimes taking place at our school?” asked Zachary Richards.

Alexandria City High School student Zachary Roberts shared his story before the school board last week. Members just approved the Superintendent’s pitch to create a 16-person advisory group to come up with recommendations to make schools safer. The city council voted to remove School Resource Officers in the fall but brought them back three months later after parents and school leaders complained of increased crimes. The controversial SRO program has been extended for another year. In that time, the School Law Enforcement Partnership will help decide how BEST to use police in the schools.

“People who have criminal justice background, people who have social justice background as well as anyone who has interest or passion in regard to black males as well as females in education those areas of expertise,” said Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Jr. “That will help us grapple with a lot of these questions.”

WUSA9 took a closer look at numbers from a school safety report released in March. According to the report, 18 students were arrested in the first 5 months of the school year. The data showed 41 assaults were reported, and 13 weapons recovered - including one gun, five knives, a stun gun, two fake firearms and pepper spray.

According to the school systems arrest data, Black and Hispanic students are being arrested at higher rates in middle schools than their white counterparts. In high school, Black children and white male students make up most of the arrests.

“Put metal detectors in the building,” suggested Ricardo Roberts, “It deters. It doesn’t stop, but it deters.”

“Seems like everything is more so being done for image as opposed to helping children;” testified his son Zachary. “It doesn’t matter how much you say you’re going to punish them, if you don’t actually follow through with your own rules or selectively enforcing them - that’s not right.”   

School leaders hope to form the advisory group within a month and after several meetings, send their safety plan to the superintendent by December.  

The deadline for community members and parents to apply for the SLEP advisory board is 11:59 p.m. on May 2.

RELATED: Alexandra school board analyzes security incidents, outlines plans for school law enforcement advisory group

RELATED: School Resource Officers return to Alexandria schools Monday

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