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City Council asks Alexandria City Public Schools to not miss another quarterly deadline and deliver report on school safety

After missing quarterly reporting deadlines on school safety, Alexandria City Public Schools says it will deliver a report this week.

In a joint City Council/School Board work session on Wednesday night, some Council members were not pleased that ACPS has not delivered quarterly performance reviews on the school resource officer program. At the meeting, ACPS staff announced that the Board will soon receive a report on school safety data and the proposed school law enforcement partnership (SLEP) advisory group. The report has not yet been made public, and should be posted today (March 3) or tomorrow as an agenda item for the upcoming meeting.

The SROs — police officers stationed at Alexandria City High School and the city’s two middle schools — were briefly defunded last year after a disjointed process that saw Council go against the wishes of the Board and redirect $800,000 from the program toward mental health resources for students. The vote 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.

“I think that we still have a long ways to go to make sure that we are getting this reporting done properly,” City Councilman Canek Aguirre said at the meeting. “I think what everybody agreed on last year is that the process sucked and there was almost little-to-no process.”

The memorandum of understanding between ACPS and the police stipulates a requirement that the City receive the reports, and that there should be meetings in August, November, February, and May of each school year for staff to “review performance and discuss reporting data.”

SROs were brought back in October, but two months later the two officers at Alexandria City High School were placed on leave after a “serious complaint” from a former student alleging “sexually inappropriate conversations” while she attended ACHS, according to the Washington Post.

There are no SROs at ACHS, which has more than 4,000 students and is the largest high school in Virginia. Still, APD officers are present at the high school, with officers rotating inside and outside of the school throughout the day, according to John Contreras, ACPS director of safety and security services.

Alicia Hart, ACPS executive director of facilities and operations, said that the lack of reporting is due to the program getting shut down last year. She said quarterly meetings between ACPS and APD are still being held.

“I absolutely agree there is an opportunity for us to make sure that we are caught up for the next go around,” Hart told Council.

Alderton said she previewed the report, and that it has some surprises.

“I had a chance to preview it, and I have to say, I think people are gonna find it very interesting,” Alderton said. “We’re not just looking at numbers, we’re looking at impact and who the impact is on. We’ll see some interesting information about disproportionality that may have some surprises.”

Councilman Kirk McPike said that the SRO program is city funded, and that there should be transparent discussions around school safety.

“This is a program that exists within the schools but it is funded in a part of the city budget,” McPike said. “We all saw last year what happens when the Council and the School Board roll in opposite directions on this issue, and it’s incredibly important that we find ways not to do that because we’re talking about safety in our schools, which is a paramount concern, not just for people on both our bodies but the entire city.”

The school year has been marked by violent incidents, including the shooting of a student at the McDonald’s at the Bradlee Shopping Center, a student being arrested with a gun on ACHS grounds, a student being arrested with a knife at ACHS, a firecracker incident that led to the evacuation of a football game, brawls inside ACHS and George Washington Middle School and more.

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