WASHINGTON - High school students in D.C. spent Friday evening outside the offices of city council members and the mayor, chanting and singing songs.
"Us youth are not dangerous. Us youth just need a little more help on pushing us and getting us together and becoming a unit," said Anacostia High School 10th-grade student Annisha Perry.
Perry said she and her classmates want the District's School Resource Officer program to be phased out.
"When we do see them it kind of traumatizes us," Perry said. Instead, students want Ward 5 Councilmember Zachary Parker's School Safety Enhancement Amendment Act funded.
"They are fearful in our schools. They are fearful getting to and from our schools," Parker told FOX 5 on Freedom Plaza Friday afternoon as the group of high school students demonstrated behind him.
"We want schools to be safe we want more things instead of police. We want more things added for us to feel more safe," Perry said.
The bill would create a safety director at each D.C. Public School who would be responsible for preventing and responding to safety incidents.
"They would be full-time, they would work in consort with the school leadership, and they would be working directly with our young people," Parker explained.
They would also engage mental health experts, violence interrupters and restorative justice practices. The safety director would put together a committee comprised of all school stakeholders, including students.
This is something Ward 8 DCPS teacher Alice McNeill says is sorely needed.
"Things do happen and as an educator, I'm not a mental health specialist. I need someone whose sole responsibility is to make sure that they have a plan," McNeill said.
High schools would have two safety staff members who cannot be teachers or law enforcement, Perry hopes these people would give her and her peers a chance.
"We can really show that we can work together, and we can do this we can do this out here, we're not dangerous," she said.
Councilmember Parker estimates the program would cost about $5 million to scale it over time. The bill is SRO-neutral, meaning it doesn't address the issue of police in schools.
Outside the proposal, the current proposed budget for 2024 funds 40 police officers in schools — the same number currently working in DCPS today.