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CA bill would curtail police role on public school campuses

A bill sponsored by L.A. Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer would limit the role of police officers on public school campuses.
A bill sponsored by L.A. Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer would limit the role of police officers on public school campuses. David McNew/Getty Images

A bill to limit the role of campus police in disciplining students passed its first committee  hearing in Sacramento Wednesday. 

The bill’s L.A. sponsor aims to reduce the number of tickets that campus police issue to students.

As school districts consider adding additional campus security following the Sandy Hook shootings, Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-LA) wants administrators to handle minor discipline issues — and for campus police to only get involved when a student’s behavior is a physical threat.

“Cops should not be giving out truancy tickets,” Jones-Sawyer said.  “The only time they should come on campus are  those unfortunate times, like Sandy Hook, when they have to, or when a student brings a weapon on campus.”  

Los Angeles Unified School District employs more than 350 police on school campuses. The district recently reported that its officers issued 33,000 tickets over a three-year period — for infractions such as vandalism, tardiness, and disturbing the peace. 

The non-profit Center for Public Integrity found the officers ticketed mostly African-American and Latino students, primarily at schools in low-income neighborhoods. 

Jones-Sawyer believes that kind of heavy-handed treatment starts kids down the wrong path.

“If a student is just having a tantrum that day, kids are pushing each other, rough housing and fighting, they shouldn’t be arrested,” Jones-Sawyer said.  “All of a sudden they’re getting written up, photographed, and they now have a record.”

The California Federation of Teachers, which includes many teachers from Los Angeles, supports the plan. The larger California Teachers Association hasn’t taken a position.  Nor has L.A. Unified. 

The Association of California School Administrators opposes the bill, saying the measure creates more work for districts without extra financial support.

“School districts have been cut and cut and cut over the last several years,” said legislative advocate Laura Preston. “We’ve cut adults, and adults are what make a school often a much safer place.”




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