Local community combats school violence

February 11, 2022

Student+Resource+Officer+James+Maeng+monitors+the+history+hallway+during+C+Lunch+on+Jan.+27.+SROs+are+schools%E2%80%99+first+line+of+defense+against+violence.

Cassie Barnes

Student Resource Officer James Maeng monitors the history hallway during C Lunch on Jan. 27. SROs are schools’ first line of defense against violence.

FCPS has previously established policies and procedures to mitigate the threat of school violence, a lot of which stem from state regulations. Some of these procedures have changed due to the increase in violence across the nation and changes to Virginia guidelines, and they include having an optional committee to oversee threat assessment teams that includes mental health professionals and administrative support as of 2020, stated by the Department of Criminal Justice Services

SchoolSafety states that law enforcement, often through the use of an SRO, is utilized to build security and mitigate school violence and are the first line of defense. 

“School security officers are utilized to the full extent to make sure no violence occurs and to stop it from happening,” Maeng said. “We break up fights and make sure everyone is safe.”

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services has developed policies regarding threat assessment teams, which assess and intervene when students’ behaviors begin to pose a threat to school safety.

“[School violence] greatly affects students,” senior Nancy Melgar said. “The decisions [made] about school violence are crucial, not only to our futures, but to our lives right now. Making sure that the county shows us that they are here to support us would greatly benefit everyone.”

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, students and officials must be well prepared to handle aggressive situations and altercations. There are sometimes “tells” in students who are just about to engage in violence, and it is important to both recognize and acknowledge these signs, per the Department of Education, in cooperation with the Secret Service.

“There are triggers [of school violence], like when I see two students getting close to each other, pushing each other here and there,” Maeng said. “[Or], if I see a big crowd forming somewhere, nothing has happened yet, but obviously something’s about to happen.”

One student throws punches at another while peers circle around the scene and record with their phones. The formation of a large crowd often indicates that a fight is about to occur. (Illustrated by Rachel Neathery)

The Youth Violence Project in conjunction with Fairfax County has made efforts to educate students and staff on reducing violence and reporting threats, a few of which include developing model procedures and providing training modules on how to deal with threat assessments.

“If you hear anything about fights, notify us immediately,” Maeng said. “Go to any subschool. Tell your teachers and counselors. [Tell them you] want to remain anonymous.”

While letting adults know about violent altercations is helpful, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg  states that students are more knowledgeable about violence occurring in school and that it is vital for students to be included in the decision-making around preventive measures.

“We have to listen to each other and not talk over voices of [those] that need their voices uplifted because they are telling us what is wrong,” Melgar said. “We have to unite and say that [violence] is not right to survive.”

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Photo of Cassie Barnes
Cassie Barnes, Editor-in-Chief

Cassie is a senior and one of the Editors-in-Chief for The Purple Tide. In school she looks forward to any class where she can read or write, and outside...

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