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School Board to ask City Council for one-year extension of school resource officer program

Alexandria City Public Schools is requesting an extension of its controversial school resource officer (SRO) program through the end of the 2022-2023 school year.

School Board Chair Meagan Alderton says that the extension is part of the reimagining of the $800,000 program, as Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. will work to develop a School Law Enforcement Partnership (SLEP) Advisory Group and formulate an SRO plan to present to City Council next year.

The SROs — police officers stationed at Alexandria City High School and the city’s two middle schools — were defunded last summer and then brought back in October after Alderton and Hutchings pleaded for their return in the wake of numerous violent incidents with weapons in schools. The SRO program is currently funded through June 30, 2022.

Once formed next year, the advisory group (comprised of ACPS staff, police, students and members of the community) will report to Hutchings, who will take their recommendations to the Board, which will send a finalized plan to City Council for approval. The advisory group will also make recommendations on the bi-annual memorandum of understanding between ACPS and the Alexandria Police Department.

“This will give the SLEP advisory group enough time to form, meet and make recommendations on the school-law enforcement partnership, to receive community and stakeholder input on the program, as well as allow our two elected bodies to make sound decisions on the future of the SRO program,” Alderton wrote in a memo to City Council. “Additionally, the importance of having a security presence in our schools in order to provide safe and secure environments for students, staff, families and community should be maintained while the most appropriate structure for safety within our facilities is determined.”

There are still no SROs at Alexandria City High School. In December, both SROs at ACHS were placed on leave after a “serious complaint” from a former student alleging “sexually inappropriate conversations” while she attended ACHS, and Alexandria Police have since rotated officers in and out of the school on a daily basis.

Council’s vote to defund SROs created a rift between City Council and the School Board that both bodies have publicly expressed a desire to mend.

Mayor Justin Wilson says the SRO program needs to be carefully deliberated.

“In the aftermath of the Council’s decision in October, I have made it clear that I think we need to pull together an inclusive community process to determine a path forward for our City on school safety and security,” Wilson told ALXnow. “Once we put together that process, I certainly support providing the space and time for that process to conclude.”

The extension will be discussed in a School Board meeting tonight (March 24).

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