Early release policy at Arlington Schools leads to downtown disruptions
A new policy at Arlington Public Schools (APS) is leading to backlash in the community after the district instituted a policy for early release for all students on Fridays. This policy has drawn plenty of criticism from local business owners and police.
Business owners in the downtown core have grown frustrated with juveniles causing disruptions on a regular basis. Arlington Hardware has been open for 119 years and its owners, Angela and Taylor Jones, are fed up.
“What we really are experiencing, in general, is a lack of public safety,” Co-owner Taylor Jones told The Jason Rantz Show. “The teenagers are part of the problem. But in general, the public safety in our sweet, small little town … It hasn’t been a priority.”
APS teenagers have caused countless disruptions inside Arlington Hardware as well as several other local businesses. Employees have even had their cars broken into.
“The police have always been extremely helpful and supportive in our community,” Jones said. “We have a great police department. The honest truth is we don’t have enough of them.”
Jonathan Ventura, the Arlington Chief of Police, expressed his frustration with APS and its early release policy.
“The police department is aware of social media chatter regarding the Arlington School District’s early release of middle school students every Friday,” Ventura told KTTH.
He said that a dedicated school resource officer interacts with students on a near-daily basis. Ventura also said APD referred approximately 34 juvenile criminal cases to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office for review.
“You’ve created a situation [where] there’s no place for these kids to go. There’s nothing constructive for them to do.” Jones said. “The only outlet they have is to come downtown and to trash all the businesses down here.”
Arlington is not immune to the problems that many law enforcement agencies are facing statewide. Ventura said recently there has been an exodus of qualified officers leaving the force for other opportunities.
“The police department is only down two budgeted police positions,” Ventura told KTTH. “The mayor and city council have authorized more police hiring in the 2023-2024 biennial budget for additional officers.”
If the police force can return to its staffing goals, it could go a long way in solving the age-old problems many small communities have faced. Until then, small businesses will have to hope their customers feel safe enough to come shop.
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