The Alexandria City Council on Monday night effectively put an end to the School Resource Office program between the police department at Alexandria City Public Schools.
School resources officers (SROs), police officers stationed inside T.C. Williams High School, Francis Hammond Middle School and George Washington Middle School, will no longer have offices in those schools.
Council deliberated for more than two hours over City Councilman Mo Seifeldein’s proposal to reallocate $789,909 for SRO funding to add mental health resources to ACPS, support staff to the Teen Wellness Center, hire an additional Behavioral Health Specialist to the Alexandria Crisis Intervention CoResponding Program Pilot.
“This has been a public discussion, and I have not heard from a school board member telling me to go out in different direction, or they’re willing to engage me on this issue,” Seifeldein said. “I have to believe what they’ve shown. Actions speak louder than words.”
At issue was a last minute proposal by City Councilman John Taylor Chapman to put the funds in contingent reserve, during a period that ACPS would meet certain benchmarks. Chapman’s proposal included asking ACPS to deliver a plan on working with the police department and private security on school grounds. The proposal died after not being able to get the support of four members of Council.
The decision comes after a contentious period of social unrest throughout the city.
“As a student I urge you to listen to us and place funds in mental health resources,” Sesen Tesfay, a T.C. Williams High School senior, told Council. “That would help our well being and bring much relief for my peers, families and community. We need you to prioritize something beneficial and not contribute to towards barriers we have been advocating on this issue for a very long time now and we are counting on your leadership to make a wise decision for us, the students.”
Seifeldein’s proposal also has the support of Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Canek Aguirre – enough to pass in Wednesday night’s budget adoption meeting. The proposal requires an implementation plan from police and ACPS, which will be presented to Council by July.
“I’ve always been of the mindset that the police officers don’t have to be on campus to be able to still efficiently do what they’re doing,” Aguirre said. “Most everything that they’re doing, whether it’s the soccer program or they’re talking with kids during school at lunchtime or during a dismissal or arrival, they can still do that without being housed on campus.”
Last month, School Board members asked City Council to respect their decision on SROS after its bi-annual memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed with the police department.