For four years, Johnny Larios and Gary Argueta have worked as police officers at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. They are armed and thus provide genuine security for students and staff at the school. More than that, according to this excellent report in the Washington Post by Hannah Natanson, they have become an important part of the T.C. Williams community.
Larios and Argueta have befriended students, becoming mentors for some. They even started and coach a soccer team for low-income Hispanic students they got to know through their work at the school.
Students crowded around their tiny office to the point that other faculty members complained. Mostly, the kids just wanted to talk. In some cases, they reported thefts which the officers investigated.
The officers played no role in disciplining the culprits. According to the Post, they aren’t even responsible for breaking up fights — that is left to the administration and its small, unarmed security force.
Larios and Argueta intervene only in cases of criminal activity such as threatening a student with a gun or bringing drugs or alcohol to school. During the 2019-2020 school year, only six arrests were made at T.C. Williams and the three middle schools that feed into it.
The T.C. Williams principal says he received only two complaints against the officers in four years. Neither came from a student. The complaints were from parents of students the officers investigated for crimes.
Yet, the Alexandria City Council, by a 4-3 vote, decided to end the program by which the two officers are assigned to T.C. Williams. Their time at the school will end when the school year does. The decision was opposed by school leadership.
Why are Larios and Argueta being booted? I infer from the Post’s article that the explanation is generalized anti-police sentiment.
Not on the part of students or school staff, though. The officers say they occasionally heard “f*ck the police” when they started at the school, but that ended quickly as students got to know the pair.
At a city council meeting, one recent T.C. Williams grad said that having armed officers in the school made her feel uncomfortable. She never interacted with either one, but said she hated walking by men with guns on the way to class.
It appears, then, that one student’s lack of comfort became the pretext, at least in part, for ending the presence of officers who promoted student safety and were mentors to a good many low-income students. (More on that below.)
Critics also pointed, inevitably, to Alexandria’s record of disciplining Black and Hispanics students to a degree disproportionate with their representation in the school population. As noted, however, the two police officers play no role in disciplinary decisions.
They are scapegoats for the unwillingness of some minority students to follow the rules. Students who follow them will suffer as a result.
Students like Johan Ferrufino, who immigrated to the U.S. from Honduras at the age of 10 and is now on track to graduate this spring. He was shot, as was his pregnant sister, in an Alexandria park in 2017. His sister died.
After that, Ferrufino became depressed and dropped out of school for seven months. When he returned, he was plagued by sudden bursts of anger. Students and teachers recoiled, but Larios and Argueta were there for him.
They welcomed him into their office. They encouraged him talk and to see a therapist. At Ferrufino’s suggestion, they started the soccer team.
Now Ferrufino plans to enroll in a police academy with the hope of eventually being assigned to a school, as Larios and Argueta were.
But he won’t be assigned to a public school in Alexandria. The knee-jerk, anti-cop crowd has seen to that.
Nor, in all likelihood, will Larios or Argueta be coaching soccer. They expect to be assigned to patrol duty with 12 hour shifts that stretch into the evening. There won’t be time for coaching.
George Floyd’s death produced hysteria bordering on madness. The story of Larios, Argueta, and T.C. Williams is just one small manifestation of it.
All over the country, Americans, especially those with low incomes, will be paying the price until the hysteria subsides (if it does).