Ticketing a 12 year-old boy for fighting in school may sound reasonable, but researchers argue that type of discipline just leads to future entanglements with law enforcement – and even to eventual drop outs.
Those are the arguments students at a Thursday rally against the ticket system have been citing over and over again.
Using the court system to address discipline issues like fighting and vandalism damages young students and their educational growth, Manuel Criollo maintains.
"There have been national studies that show a young person who has contact with law enforcement on campus is almost twice as likely to leave school," claims Criollo, an organizer with the Community Rights Campaign. "Those students who have to go to court to deal with a ticket or an arrest are four times as likely to leave school."
Together with the Labor Strategy Center, the Community Rights Campaign recently analyzed data revealing that the Los Angeles School Police Department issued more than 33,000 citations between 2009 and 2011.
Forty percent of these went to students younger than 14, most of whom (Criollo says) were Latino or African American.
"The data revealed that almost 96 percent of all the students who were ticketed were students of color," according to Criollo. "You know children as young as 7 years-old were receiving tickets."
The two groups urge a 75 percent reduction in all citations, and an immediate moratorium on ticketing until the district can conduct a more thorough analysis of the data. L.A. School Police say the ethnicity of the ticketed students reflects the demographics of the school district; the agency does not plan to stop issuing citations.
Officials from the L.A. Unified School District have not yet commented on the research findings.