Alexandria School Board to hold debate over use of School Resource Officers
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) - The Alexandria community is weighing how to keep kids safe in schools. As part of the debate, the Alexandria School Board will meet Thursday to discuss the next phase of its School Resource Officer (SRO) program.
As it stands right now, Alexandria's resource officers will be gone from schools next year unless the Alexandria City Council approves funding for them. Last year, the council voted to get rid of SRO's before reinstating them.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Changes coming to school resource officer program at Alexandria Public Schools
Ahead of the board meeting Thursday, school officials drafted a letter asking the city council to extend the SRO program for at least a year.
"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," the letter reads.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson has consistently voted to keep SRO’s in schools and is inclined to extend the program as Alexandria works out best practices.
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"I have long said that we need to step back on this issue, put together a truly inclusive process to determine the future of this relationship, and I certainly support keeping the existing program in place while we do that." Wilson tells Fox 5.
Despite the school board and mayor's support, the use of SRO's is facing some challenges. Councilman Canek Aguirre tells Fox 5, while safety is a top priority for him, he also questions whether armed officers belong in schools. He also has concerns about whether the council is including enough of the school community in the proposed advisory board.
"While they say there’s a community subgroup, it’s not the same as having 40 people go through a community process, have a large discussion, have students involved, have parents involved, have community stakeholders involved. They’ll say that this group they’re forming has that, but that’s not true." said Aguirre.
READ MORE: Alexandria city council temporarily reinstates school resource officers
Alexandria's Mayor also agrees that community voices must be heard throughout this process.
"My view is that we want to make sure all voices are heard and we want to figure out a solution that can ultimately satisfy and everyone feels like they were heard. I think part of the challenge with that decision last year was that there wasn’t that process,' said Wilson.
The school board's draft letter says students, parents, staff and other community stakeholders will be included in the advisory board.
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Fox 5 reached out to the district for comment on this topic, but have not heard back. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.