Police working to arrest violent gang members in Santa Rosa, Calif., recently ran into a roadblock: Santa Rosa City Schools.
Detectives with Santa Rosa Police’s Gang Crimes Team were rebuffed in their attempt to arrest four teens at Elsie Allen High School who were allegedly involved in a robbery and stabbing of a 41-year-old man about a mile from the school on Jan. 11, the Press Democrat reports.
“The principal was instructed by Superintendent Anna Trunnell to deny our detectives access to the students and any information that detectives requested,” police spokeswoman Sgt. Patricia Seffens told the news site.
The detectives wanted to know if the students were attending class, with plans to return the next day, she said.
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Instead, police arrested the students at their homes the day after detectives visited the school on Jan. 16, KSRO reports.
Superintendent Trunnell wrote in an email to the Press Democrat that the decision to turn away detectives “was not a decision to not work with the police.”
“Historically, we have cooperated with SRPD,” she wrote. “On this occasion, the district was asked to assist with acquiring students from their classrooms to be arrested for an incident that happened outside of school hours off campus.”
Elise Allen principal Gabriel Albavera told the news site he and other staff helped police identify the assailants on the day of the attack based on surveillance video.
“We gave them names,” Albavera said. “Well, they actually already had the names, and we just kind of verified.”
The surveillance video showed at least four suspects involved in the attack fled on foot the Elsie Allen High School, where they then left in a vehicle. One of the suspects arrested on Jan. 17 was carrying a backpack to school with firearm parts, and a search of the 16-year-old’s home turned up other firearm parts and a 3D printer used to make guns, police said.
In total, 10 teens have been arrested in the attack. The victim has since recovered and has been released from the hospital, the Press Democrat reports.
The lack of cooperation between school and police in Santa Rosa follows a wave of violence in the city’s schools involving armed teens that has led to campus lockdowns and the fatal stabbing of a Montgomery High School student last spring.
The escalating violence and a Safe Campus Alliance of parents, teachers, and community leaders, convinced the school board in December to approve a pilot program to bring back school resource officers. The district in June 2020 ended its partnership with the police department that stationed an officer at each high school and middle school amid a push to “defund police” following the death of George Floyd.
Santa Rosa Police Chief John Cregan has said it will take six months to set up the program to restart for the 2024-25 school year.
The surge in violence is Santa Rosa isn’t unique.
School districts across the country have struggled to address an increase in school fights in the wake of government-imposed lockdowns during the pandemic that isolated students for months.
A North Carolina 14-year-old is facing a murder charge following after he was attacked by a mob of classmates at Southeast Raleigh High School in November. The teen stabbed several students, leaving one 15-year-old dead and a 16-year-old injured, as he was “fighting for his life,” the boy’s mother, Cherelle McLaughlin, told WRAL.
The same month, teachers at Charlottesville High School in Virginia refused to show up for work over what some described as a lack of consequences for bad behavior that contributed to daily fights, The Daily Press Reports.
CHS counselor David Wilkerson described the scene there is a post to Facebook: “Today he had roving bands in search of the next fight, multiple fights from which to choose, and hundreds of kids filming and cheering.”
Just days prior, eight Las Vegas teens were charged with murder after a fatal beating of a classmate over a pair of wireless headphones and a marijuana vape pen, The Associated Press reports.
That fatal fight followed scores of other fights in schools across the Clark County School District in the months prior that forced numerous lockdowns, according to NPR.