Opinion: Letter to the Editor: On Council’s Action on School Resource Officers

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: On Council’s Action on School Resource Officers

The principal problem with the city council's 4-3 vote against continuing to provide the Alexandria City Public Schools with school resource officers is that it usurps the elected school board's primary responsibility for maintaining order and discipline in the schools. A case can be made that school resource officers are not the best way to achieve this objective, but that is the elected school board's -- not the city council's -- responsibility to make that decision. For decades, the city council has properly deferred to the school board's judgment and provided the police resources the school board requested. Before voting to continue utilizing school resource officers, the school board listened to parents, students, and other community stakeholders and adopted a compromise arrangement.

Schools which do not maintain order and discipline are poor learning environments where, sooner or later, test scores suffer. Voters will hold their school board responsible for the direct and visible outcome of poor academic performance -- not its less visible potential cause rooted in poor discipline resulting from no longer having on-site school resource officers. The city council's 4-3 vote against school resource officers saddles the elected school board, which is responsible for academic performance, with an unfair burden by tieing its hands in matters of school security and safety.

The school board's request to continue funding for school resource officers was not unanimous, so instead of taking out the funding for school resource officers, the city council should have continued the funding through some date in February 2022 to allow the voters to decide, when they vote for school board members this November, whether school resource officers should be continued. The city council should have made funding beyond that February date contingent upon a request by the newly elected school board.

Decades ago, when the school board was appointed by the city council, it would have been appropriate for the city council to override the school board's request, but for several decades Alexandria has had an elected school board due the deference of a co-equal elected body. The city council should not treat the elected school board as if it were still a city council-appointed board, like the Traffic and Parking Board or the Board of Architectural Review, whose recommendations and determinations the city council can and has overriden. Instead of substituting four city council members' judgment for that of the elected school board, the city council should allow the voters to decide, when they vote for the next school board in November, how the matter of school resource officers should be handled.

Dino Drudi