LAUSD redirects faculty police funds to assist black college students

In a major overhaul of the Los Angeles school’s police department, the Board of Education on Tuesday approved a plan that will cut a third of its officials, ban students from using pepper spray, and divert funds from the department to improve the education of black students.

The unanimous decision comes after a year-long campaign by student activists and community members to redefine the school police, which they use disproportionately against black and Latin American children. Her urge, and recent calls to completely devalue school police, heightened after the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, which forced cities and school districts across the country to think about how the use of force by the police made blacks Hurt Americans disproportionately.

“We would not be at this point, although it is admittedly delayed, without the leadership of the community,” said President Kelly Gonez. “I’m glad that the development of the plan also provided an opportunity for greater engagement with our students, families and the wider community.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District Police Overhaul is funding school climate coaches who are committed to promoting a positive school culture and tackling implicit biases in every secondary school. Support staff and a performance plan for black students are also added.

Board member George McKenna raised strong concerns during the debate.

“Parents expect safe schools from us. And if you think the police are the problem, you probably have a problem yourself, ”McKenna said.

Board member Jackie Goldberg noted that officers would not disappear from campus but could still monitor schools and respond to emergencies.

LA Unified follows several other school districts that have reduced or eliminated school police departments. The Oakland Unified School District School Board unanimously voted to remove school police in June. This month the superintendent of public schools in Portland, Oregon announced that campus would no longer have school officials on campus regularly.

A coalition of approximately 19 student activists and advocacy groups – including Black Lives Matter, the Community Coalition, InnerCity Struggle, and California Assn. of Black School Educators – commended the $ 11.5 million effort to promote black student achievement.

“This plan includes a longstanding demand from the community for counselors rather than police officers and is a first step in replacing school police with more effective strategies for student safety,” the organizations said in a statement. “This victory is a crucial step in mitigating the years of divestment and ending the criminalization and over-policing of black and colored students in LAUSD.”

The school principals at the Los Angeles school have largely opposed the effort, and the $ 25 million cut in funding resulted in the resignation of 20 officials.

The approved plan will cut 133 positions: 70 sworn civil servants, 62 non-sworn civil servants and 1 support employee. At the meeting, Chief Leslie Ramirez said the reduction would leave the force of 211 officers.

During 45 minutes of public comment during the meeting, many speakers expressed support for the plan. Many identified themselves as students in the Students Deserve group, which campaigns to defuse the school police. Some students expressed frustration at how long it had taken to divert funds to their black counterparts since the school board announced the cut in funding in June.

The school board and the wider community disagreed on this issue.

A survey commissioned by the district found that students, parents and staff generally had positive opinions about the school police. More than half of the respondents in each group said the school police make the campus safe.

When broken down by demographics, 35% of black students agreed with this feeling, compared with 56% of Asian American and Pacific islanders, 54% of Latin American students, and 49% of white students.

A similar pattern occurred among parents, with roughly 50% of black parents agreeing school police make campus safe compared to 72% of parents from Asia, America and the Pacific, 67% of Latino parents, and 54% of the white parents.

In addition, a quarter of black female students said they did not feel safe with a school policeman present. This is the highest of all racial groups when broken down by gender. Twenty percent of black male students also said they did not feel safe with an officer present. Black parents also were less likely to believe school police made campus safe compared to other races and ethnic groups.

Attitudes towards the diversion of school police funds were more inconsistent. Approximately 2 in 5 students and parents help divert school police funds to other student resources. Almost a quarter of parents are against shifting funding.

Resistance to the funding cut increased among parents and staff on the high school campus. When asked about a gradual reduction in the school police, 43% of parents and 47% of employees were against it. When asked to reduce the police budget by 90% over three years, resistance from parents and staff rose to 49% and 56%, respectively.

Tuesday’s report found that there was consensus among respondents that the department should not be completely dismantled. McKenna, the only member of the black school board, has spoken out against reducing school cops on campus.

Overall, there was a consensus among those surveyed that funding for student resources should be supported in the form of additional staff such as psychiatric social workers and counselors, as well as the expansion of mentoring programs.

The report by Los Angeles-based polling company Evitarus surveyed 35,467 students in grades 10-12, 6,639 parents and 2,348 high school employees in October and November.

A total of $ 36.5 million – including $ 25 million from diverted school police funds and the remaining $ 11.5 million from the general fund budget for the next school year – will be invested in a black student performance plan.

The bulk of the funding, $ 30.1 million, will go towards hiring school climate coaches and other support staff such as school nurses and counselors. Trainers will be responsible for using de-escalation strategies for conflict resolution, eliminating racial differences in school discipline, and eliminating implicit bias. The task force also identified 53 schools that have more than 200 black students enrolled and that have high needs for additional staffing, including a restorative justice advisor at each location.

Youth activists pushing for change celebrated the decision.

“I am proud that a door to a bright future is opening for me and my colleagues,” said Emmanuel Karunwi, student leader at the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition. “I am happy to say that this victory is a step towards a reality where black death is not inevitable.”

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