By Rebecca Loesberg, writing for Grassroots Alexandria
Recent fighting and community tragedy at and nearby Alexandria schools have many residents raising the issue of safety in our schools. These residents are right—there is a safety issue in ACPS, but it’s not the one you think. And, there is something we can do about it. What we do have is a bunch of children returning to in person school after over a year of at-home learning, some in-person learning, and continued isolation due to COVID-19. From a mental health perspective, it’s no surprise that these kids are overwhelmed and overstimulated during our collective trauma, resulting in increased tension and expression of that tension through physical violence. After all, we are also inundated with videos of grown adults losing control of their emotions in supermarkets, on airplanes, and in shopping malls.
“For the health and safety of our students, please increase the implementation of restorative practices, which models active discussion and resolution of conflict. Please add staff, training, and an active plan that can be measured for accountability. Please fast track the hiring and implementation of more mental health resources for our kids that was promised when the School Resource Officer (SRO) money was re-allocated. Please implement greater structure around free/lunch periods. Let’s please, listen to our students, many of whom spoke out against implementation of SROs. Let’s not rush back to implement an ineffective program, but use this as an opportunity to increase resources for our students.”
We do not make this request lightly. We urge you, when contemplating what safety means for you, your children, and our school system, to look at the broader context. To encourage you to act, we offer this fact-based assessment: