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The Alexandria City School Board gave approval Thursday for top school administrators to create an advisory group to review and propose changes to the district’s partnership with the police.

The formation of the School Law Enforcement Partnership Advisory Group (SLEP) has been delayed after a tense meeting last month in which board members could not reach consensus on the composition of the group.

Board members argued, among other things, that a different plan was needed that would give the board more control over the work of the advisory group.

The revised plan presented on Thursday seemed respond to previous comments from the school board. Thirteen revisions were added, which included restructuring the advisory group by adding four additional members and defining these roles. He also clarified the role of the school board in the process – board members will vote on whether recommendations issued by SLEP should be approved, signaling to the district superintendent whether to move forward with any changes in Politics.

“All of the recommendations are in this proposal,” said Jacinta Greene, vice president of the school board. “And I went through my checklist, so I know they’re all in there.”

With the consensus of the board, the first meeting of the advisory group should take place in May or June, after the approval of an external facilitator who has not yet been appointed. Applications for the group will open on Friday, with a May 2 deadline. The group’s initial comments and recommendations will be provided to the Superintendent in December.

Alexandria School Board fails to reach decision on forming advisory group to review school policing

Some board members were concerned about the short time frame for people to get involved, since applications must be submitted in less than two weeks. Top administrators said the academic year was about to end, which gave them a shorter time frame to establish the group. But because the subject has been so controversial within the school system, they said they were confident that students, staff and community members would apply quickly.

“Let’s get things moving while we have the momentum, and that’s really the sense of urgency that we have,” Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. said. already exceeded this deadline.”

Half of the group will be made up of school staff and community members, including two students, a school dean, a teacher, two parents, a police department representative and a city representative.

The district has debated its relationship with the police since 2020, amid a broad national debate over whether school systems should have school resource officers in buildings. He reached an agreement with the police department that year, clarifying student rights and requiring the school system to begin publishing data on student discipline and policing categorized by race, gender, age and disability.

The SROs, which are not involved in disciplinary cases, only take action against a student when the student is suspected of engaging in criminal activity, such as threatening their peers with a weapon or having drugs or alcohol at school. During the 2019-2020 school year, the five SROs in Alexandria made six arrests.

Alexandria withdraws the police from its schools. Some students don’t want them to leave.

In May 2021, the Alexandria City Council voted to end funding for the SRO program. The school system began the school year without ORS – until early October, when Alexandria City High School was closed because a male student had a gun at school. The lockdown followed a series of incidents in which police were called to the school for fights.

About a week after the lockdown, the city council decided to send the police back to schools.

In December, two Alexandria City High School SROs were furloughed as part of an investigation. The Washington Post reported that this stemmed from a report by a former student of sexually inappropriate conversations that allegedly took place while she was at the school.

No SROs are on duty at the school, but police patrol outside. The council has since applied for funding from the city government to extend the SRO program until June 2023.

Data released in March showed black students in the school district were disproportionately arrested compared to their white peers. Black males were arrested at particularly high rates, accounting for 44% of middle school arrests and 36% of high school arrests.

The revised advisory board structure puts representatives in place to tackle some of these issues. The four positions added will be include one member who has experience in black men’s success and one member who has experience in criminal justice reform.

Some council members asked if the advisory group would consider what model of policing to use in schools – such as whether officers should be present in hallways or on standby outside schools. Hutchings interrupted that discussion, urging school board members not to share opinions on their positions. He said members of the advisory group can remember the views of school board members and potentially be influenced by them.

“People will come back to this meeting and think that’s the path we want to go, not having the open mind to say, ‘Let’s look at all our data and figure out what’s going to be best based on the information we have.’ ,” Hutchings said.

Meagan Alderton, board chair, noted that the board would still be able to provide feedback throughout the process.

“We do what we always do – we ask the questions, make the necessary adjustments,” Alderton said. “I think we can make it work.”