Alexandria, VA

Alexandria students on Monday asked City Council to reallocate funds intended for school resource officers at public schools.

Francis C. Hammond Middle School eighth grader Karen says school resource officers make her uncomfortable. Karen is a youth organizer with Arlandria-based Tenants and Workers United, and was also joined by a number of other students in voicing their discontent at City Council’s public hearing on the budget.

“They always have me on high alert because I felt threatened by their existence,” Karen said. “They are always just like in the hallway with no purpose or mission, they get involved with nothing that has to do with them or a problem that the higher-ups can deal with.”

Council could only receive public testimony and could not comment at the meeting. The SRO issue recently came up, though, at a City Council joint meeting with the School Board.

At that meeting, City Councilman Canek Aguirre created a stir when he questioned the Board and its staff on the SRO bi-annual agreement that was approved last November.

“You don’t have to be (housed) in the building, frankly, to be able to show up during lunch or arrival or dismissal, which (is when) officers are engaging the students most, which is arrival, lunch, and dismissal,” Aguirre said. “I think that we can create schedules for these officers where they still have an opportunity to show up during some of these times.”

TWI is asking that the SRO funds, which fall under council’s purview in the police department’s budget, be reallocated toward restorative justice practices, after school programs, counselors, social workers and affordable housing.

“The purpose of school is to learn and succeed, how, how is it that I’m supposed to learn when I’m constantly being distracted by an armed adult?” asked T.C. Williams High School ninth grader Abenaa Buabeng. “I truly hope you can take on your leadership and make the right decision, because we as young people learn from you are leaders so we can be proud of you for your right choices.”

The fiscal year 2022 budget will be passed on May 5.

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