Alexandria City Public Schools staff and the Police Department are hammering out a revised memorandum of understanding (MOU), and while few details have been released, the school system says that the school resource officer (SRO) program will change next year.
It’s been more than a month since City Council reversed its decision and brought back SROs. The initial decision to defund the officers redirected $800,000 in SRO funding toward mental health resources for students. It created a rift between City Council and the School Board, but after numerous violent incidents with weapons in schools, School Board Chair Meagan Alderton and Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. pleaded for their return.
Council’s decision continues to fund SROs for the remainder of the year at Alexandria City High School, Francis C. Hammond Middle School and George Washington Middle School.
“The SROs are not going back into our school buildings as they were prior to the pandemic,” John Contreras, ACPS director of Safety and Security Services, told the School Board at last Thursday night’s meeting.
School officials met with police on Nov. 5 with proposed changes to the MOU that was approved last year. The old document has “measurable objectives” for SROs to complete quarterly performance and after-action reports after incidents with students, and more focus will be put on data collection in the latest version
“The reason we got here was because one side of the argument was that we didn’t have enough data to keep the SROs,” School Board Member Christopher Suarez said. “The other side of the argument was we didn’t have enough data to eliminate the SROs. Everyone said there wasn’t enough data. So, the data is really fundamental to this.”
While ACPS is also considering creating an SRO Task Force with subcommittees made up of staff, students and members of the community, the next MOU will be similar to the last one, Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. told the Board.
“A large majority of the sections (of the MOU) are staying intact,” Hutchings told the Board. “Most of what the revisions are providing are more finite details as to what the roles are more clearly for ACPS and what the roles are more clearly for APD when SROs are in the buildings.”
In the event that City Council decides in the next budget cycle to defund SROs again, Hutchings said the school system would have to return to a “call for service MOU model.”
“We would more than likely have to return to something like that if the SRO program is not funded past June 2022,” Hutchings said.
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