Tony Pierce / KPCC
Hamilton High School in Los Angeles.
While most LA Unified students have been on summer break, school police chief Steven Zipperman - head of the largest school police force in the country - and a handful of district administrators have been meeting with local civil rights groups that want to overhaul school ticketing policies. Police may ticket students for jaywalking, skipping school, vandalism, or carrying cigarettes - but the most common violation is fighting.
Less than a week from the first day of school, LAUSD announced its new plan:
In our meetings, we have agreed on steps to mitigate the issues and concerns that have been presented. At the meetings, we have discussed and will be instituting in the new school year a progressive new policy that will refer students, who are truants to a non-court, district-sponsored, diversion program. We have also shared with the group that there has been a 54% decrease in truancy citations since last year alone.
The District and the LASPD continue to analyze the most appropriate means to address violations of laws, and will continue to address many issues administratively within the school environment. We have shared this information with all groups involved.
Manuel Criollo, lead organizer with the Labor/Community Strategy Center, initiated the meetings after the group analyzed previously unreleased data from the district.
Here’s some of what they found:
In the last three years, L.A. Unified police issued 33,845 citations, to students between 10 and 18 years old. More than 40 percent of those tickets went to kids who were 14 or younger.
An overrepresentation of Black students is present for the majority of offense categories and is particularly high for younger students and certain categories of offenses.
Criollo says the decision to eliminate truancy ticketing is significant but he’d like the district to establish more “concrete protocols.” Ultimately, he says, he’d a comprehensive policy that includes a parent-student review panel to monitor citation data.
In a statement, the district refutes any suggestion that school officers engage in discriminatory behavior:
The LASPD has not, and will not, engage in any form of biased or discriminatory enforcement activities based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preferences, student disabilities or geographic location. The LASPD looks forward to the continuing partnership with all stakeholders to ensure a safe, secure school environment, and equal educational opportunities.
The chief is under pressure to ease up on ticketing thousands of students, especially after budget cuts closed L.A. County’s informal juvenile traffic courts in June.