L.A. Unified’s school police issued nearly 34,000 tickets to students for minor offenses, from possession of tobacco to fighting, in the last three years. In 2011 they wrote up an average of 28 tickets a day — more than any other department in the country has reported. Most of those went to middle school-aged kids between 10 and 14 years old.
The volume of citations, and the fact that it’s black and Latino students getting a disproportionate number of tickets, mobilized local civil rights activists, who are now working with school police to reduce the number of citations issued.
Manuel Criollo, lead organizer with the Labor/Community Strategy Center, has been part of a series of meetings with the chief of school police and district administrators.
He said their goals are simple: “That there will be clear protocols that would delineate in which cases law enforcement would be involved and in which cases school administrators would be involved.”
Criollo said he’s witnessed a disturbing new trend among school administrators: rather than resolving a problem internally or within the classroom, they’re opting to involve law enforcement.
Chief Steve Zipperman agrees. “Sometimes the officer on campus doesn’t want to issue a ticket,” he said, “but he has no choice if the principal is telling him to give the student a ticket.”
Criollo said L.A. Unified can learn from school districts in Colorado, Connecticut and Georgia for models of school discipline reform.
“In Connecticut, probation officers have said, ‘We don’t want to see tickets for school fights or really young, elementary aged children.'" They’ve made great strides in keeping juveniles out of the criminal justice system, he said.
Chief Zipperman will meet with the Labor/Community Strategy Center for another discussion on Monday.