In May, as part of Democrats’ “Defund the Police” movement, the Alexandria, Virginia, city council voted to remove school resource officers (SRO), promising to replace them with mental health counselors.
Counselors were never hired, however, and parents and teachers are now blaming an increase in student violence on the decision to remove police from schools, Fox News reported.
Jennifer Rohrbach, the mother of a 14-year-old daughter at Alexandria City High School, told ABC7 that she was shocked by videos that have been posted online showing students kicking, punching, and even stomping classmates and teachers.
“When I watch these videos, I would say my reaction is shock, complete shock,” Rohrbach said of the videos. She added that she believed the violence would be reduced if police were back on campus.
“We’re willing to compromise. We’re looking to work together. We’re not trying to insist that our way is the only way,” she said. “I think not having [school resource officers] there has made it, I hate to say, almost a free-for-all.”
Many parents and teachers believe the uptick in violence coincides with the Alexandria City Council’s decision last May to remove School Resource Officers and reallocate the $800,000 in funding to hire mental health professionals. The SROs were released in the beginning of the 2021 school term, yet, so far, no counselors have been hired.
The SROs are police officers, armed and in uniform, who are specifically trained to work in the schools with students. They patrol school property and respond to any threats or disturbances. They also make arrests where criminal acts are involved. But some social justice organizations say they do more harm than good.
The recent violence, however, may be an indicator that the resource officers are needed.
Damon Minnix, a police officer in Alexandria and president of the Southern States Benevolent Association, told the outlet that SRO’s promote safety.
“Wherever you have a police officer, safety tends to follow,” he told ABC7.
The news outlet obtained police reports that it said showed violence was occurring in schools even with SROS, but a source in the police department told the outlet those reports didn’t include about half the incidents, which were resolved without any arrests. When the outlet showed the reports to Minnix, he informed them that having SROs can keep incidents from escalating.
“Well, for all crimes, you know that the faster you can arrive on scene, the more likely you are to stop it from becoming more serious,” Minnix told the outlet.
Gregory C. Hutchings Jr., Alexandria’s superintendent of schools, went to a city council meeting to implore them to reinstate SROs.
“I’m pleading with the City Council this evening that we reinstate our school resource officers immediately,” Hutchings said.
Rohrbach said that even with Hutchings’ support, schools have not been transparent about the violence problem and have even lashed out at parents for bringing it up.
“They chastised the parents, such as myself, for advocating for our students. And again, it all goes back to one thing, safe schools for all students,” Rohrbach told ABC7.
In May, the city council voted to remove the SROS and reallocate $800,000 in funding to hire mental health counselors, who were never hired.