Last February, LAUSD voted to limit the role of the Los Angeles School Police Department in all its schools.
The Board of Education approved a plan that cuts one-third of the officers, bans the use of pepper spray on students, and repurposes the funds being used in the department to improve education for Black students.
Student activists and members of the community have been campaigning for these changes for the past year. The Board of Education voted unanimously to change the role of police, which activists say disproportionately targets Black and Latino children. Although this has been a hot topic for a year, the calls to defund the school police have been spurred on after the killing of George Floyd last May.
Board President Kelly Gonez paid respects to the community leadership. “We would not be at this point, though it is delayed admittedly, without the community’s leadership,” she said. “I’m glad that the plan’s development also provided an opportunity for more engagement with our students, families, and the broader community.”
LAUSD will now provide funding for a new position called “climate coaches.” Their jobs will be to work to address implicit bias at every high school. Staff to support an achievement plan for schools with at least 200 Black students will also be added.
Board member George McKenna, however, is not a fan of this plan.
“The parents expect us to have safe schools. And if you think the police are the problem, I think you got a problem yourself,” McKenna said. Officers will not be altogether taken out of campuses, but they would still monitor schools and respond to emergencies.
The $25 million funding cut led to 20 officers’ resignations and the Los Angeles school police leaders have largely opposed these efforts. The plan will eliminate 70 sworn officers, 62 non sworn officers and one support staff member. At this meeting, Chief Leslie Ramirez said the reduction would leave the police force with 211 officers.
Chief Leslie Ramirez has stated that the reduction would leave the force with less than 250 officers. A survey commissioned by the district (that many students took) showed that more than half of the students, parents, and staff believe that school police make campuses more safe.
However only about 45 percent of Black and Latino students actually believe that they make schools safer, and 59 percent of Black and Latino parents feel the same. One-quarter of the Black female students in LAUSD said they did not feel safe with a school officer present, as well as 20 percent of Black male students.
“With students of color being disproportionately targeted by their on-campus security/ police offers, it is fitting that this step of reallocating school police funding is being taken.” Black Student Union president Jovana Tankou says.
“Hopefully, it can result in more racially conscious techniques of aiding students that don’t involve implementing the school-to-prison pipeline. Black students are just tired of being seen as criminals before we’re seen as students.” Jovana said.
Teachers who were asked for comment declined for fear of how their opinions might be taken by administrators.
After a return to campus, we look forward to seeing how these changes will be implemented on campus.