Removal of school cops in Virginia led to violence among students, parent says

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Removal of school cops in Virginia led to violence among students, parent says

A public school district in Virginia has devolved into a violent “free-for-all” after the district removed school resource officers amid the defund the police movement, worried parents claim.

Shocking videos posted on social media by students — and sent to WJLA by concerned parents — show middle and high school students kicking, punching and stomping on each other on or near school property.

Some adults are also filmed being attacked.

The reported uptick in violence comes after the Alexandria City Council voted in May to pull school resource officers (SROs) from schools and allocate some $800,000 to recruit mental health professionals — which are still yet to be hired, WJLA reported.

“I think not having them there has made it, I hate to say, almost a free-for-all,” said Jennifer Rohrbach, whose 14-year-old daughter attends Alexandria City High School. “When I watch these videos, I would say my reaction is shock, complete shock.”

Various clips of the bedlam show an assault in a school cafeteria, a student kicked by classmates in a parking lot brawl, and high school students attacking a man near a McDonald’s at Alexandria City High School, WJLA reported.

Some of the disturbing videos were even posted to Instagram and Facebook, the outlet said.

District officials have also acknowledged the rise in violence, including a student who was shot near Alexandria City High School in late September and another who was arrested for bringing a handgun there.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings addressed the matter Thursday during a school board meeting, saying he was disappointed and disheartened by kids who had engaged in “some unsafe and unacceptable” behaviors.

“This has been tough to witness,” Hutchings said of the violent incidents. “You know, for me, it is not the type of learning environment that we want any of our students to be a part of and they definitely will not thrive in an environment like that.”

Hutchings insisted it’s clear that additional safety measures and services are needed to address the problem after losing SROs — a role which he described as one of its “most valuable tools.”

“I’m pleading with our City Council this evening that we reinstate our school resource officers immediately,” the superintendent said Thursday. “We cannot wait for extended conversations about this matter as this situation has really escalated.”

But proponents of removing SROs, such as community group Tenants & Workers United, argue that the police presence could be intimidating to students of color.

“One of the things that we have learned and often hear from our students is the impact of school resource officers in the schools, and how that makes them really feel,” Evelin Urrutia, Executive Director of Tenants & Workers United told WJLA last month amid the renewed debate.

“Like getting into school, and the first thing they see is someone with arms, someone with a gun. We already know that’s happening with students of color, the policing presence, and this is intimidating our students.”

The four Alexandria City Council members who voted to remove SROs did not respond to requests for interviews, WJLA reported.

Parents like Rohrbach, meanwhile, claim district officials have not been transparent on the scope of the problem – and even criticized parents who called for more action.

“They chastised the parents, such as myself, for advocating for our students,” Rohrbach said.

“And again, it all goes back to one thing: safe schools for all students.”

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