On behalf of our community, Tenants and Workers United wants to make clear that we stand by the original decision to reallocate funding from the School Resource Officer program to school-based mental health resources. We do not believe that armed police officers belong on school grounds. The presence of armed police at schools disproportionately pushes out and criminalizes students of color. There is data to support this, and we believe and trust our youth when they share their personal experiences.
The vote that the Alexandria City Council took last night (October 12, 2021) is simply another example of how power and privilege run this city. Alexandria has yet to live up to its verbal commitment to racial equity and social justice.
It’s deeply disappointing that the communities most impacted by violence and injustice, who know what solutions are needed to best support their communities, are ignored during decision making processes. This is an issue of democracy, racial justice, White Supremacy, and power and privilege. Once again, Alexandria City finds itself on the wrong side of history.
Many low-income students of color have been through a year and a half of severely interrupted schooling, loss and grief, severe poverty, lack of adequate food and resources, housing instability, stress, and even trauma. For these reasons, we have long anticipated a difficult return to school this year, but police are not the answer.
We must focus on moving forward, and better. Removing police from ACPS was a good decision. It is still the right decision.
We need a holistic approach to education and a clear focus on the root causes of the issues our youth face. We need community circles and restorative practices now more than ever; if implemented with fidelity, they can drastically change our school culture and climate for the better. We know this; there is data to support this.
We, too, want schools that are safe and welcoming for all students all the time. This can be accomplished without armed police officers. Unarmed security guards, a video security system, well-trained staff, and a community-focused school are the best ways to provide safety without fueling the school-to-prison pipeline and further traumatizing students, especially students of color.
It’s difficult for us to understand how it’s acceptable to spend nearly $1 million on armed police instead of spending that money on holistic approaches, supportive programs, and community-building initiatives in our schools. That doesn’t make any sense; we cannot go back to an unaccountable system that has failed students of color for over 20 years.
Alexandria City and ACPS are not putting its resources where they need to be. We cannot fund punitive responses; we must fund restorative solutions. We must prioritize building community among students, teachers, administrators, and staff, and we must prioritize addressing social inequities and racial disparities in our schools, communities, and institutions. This is how we will resolve the issues ACPS is facing.