ALEXANDRIA, Va. (DC News Now) — As Alexandria’s School Board weighs whether or not to continue its turbulent relationship with school resource officers, the advisory group the district tapped to offer its opinion says: the partnership should continue.

At a Thursday evening school board meeting, representatives from the Student Law Enforcement Partnership (SLEP) Advisory Group shared its 17 recommendations with the board.

Among those 17 recommendations: working with the Alexandria City Council to continue SRO funding, the group explained that while SROs “will not independently solve safety concerns… they belong in the mix.”

“Removing SROs would send a message to many families and community members that ACPS does not take seriously the violence that has occurred at regular intervals in the last year,” the report reads.

The saga over SROs hit its apex in 2021, when city council decided to start the school year without officers in city schools. However, after some violent incidents, school administrators pleaded with city officials to reinstate officers, which they eventually did.

Among the other recommendations: including de-escalation as part of SROs’ yearly professional development; study why minority students are arrested at higher rates; and develop an ongoing community engagement plan with an external group, overseen by the school board, to include more voices in the continuing issues of school safety, policing, and equity. Some of these programs were praised by board members on Thursday.

“What I really love is that the recommendation is that the stakeholder group is looking at things beyond policing and SROs but its looking at safety a little more holistically in our community,” School Board Member Michelle Rief said.

But before the recommendations were presented to the board, community members had a chance to chime in. Elisabeth Stanley was one of a handful of people with signs reading, ‘CARE not COPS’ sitting in the meeting room.

“We want to increase the safety of our schools and our community in the long term, and that takes more work than the knee-jerk band-aid response of throwing armed officers into the mix and calling it safety,” she said.

Board members will have to decide which direction they want the district to go before asking the city council for its backing.