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Los Angeles Superior Court
All 13 Informal Juvenile and Traffic Courts will be closed and four Delinquency Courts shuttered under the latest Los Angeles County Superior Court plan to deal with millions in proposed state budget cuts, according to an email sent last week by Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash to L.A. County officials.
As a result, tens of thousands of cases that involve typically lower-level offenses that students are cited for in and around school campuses, for example daytime curfew violations or disorderly conduct, will instead be routed through the remaining 24 Delinquency Courts — a system that often deals with more serious felony violations that would be considered criminal if committed by an adult.
"We're pushing those kids into a system that puts kids on formal probation and many times has to send kids away to juvenile probation camps, or take them out of their home," said David Sapp, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
Tami Abdollah / KPCC
Students rally to support a change to LA's daytime curfew law at a February 2012 meeting of L.A. City Council's public safety committee.
L.A. City Council unanimously voted this morning in favor of changes to the city's daytime curfew law to improve how the city deals with its truant students.
The measure, proposed by Councilmember Tony Cardenas, is one piece of a countywide effort to more holistically address problems with student attendance and to focus on understanding why a student is late rather than punishing them with a $250 fine.
"The parent, the school, everybody is now attending to that young person and actually asking the question 'What's going on?,' and after asking the question, we're listening to them," Cardenas said. "That is the way we should be doing things."
Under the amended municipal code, police will no longer cite students on their way to class or running late. Students will also not be fined the first two times they are ticketed. And instead of appearing in court, they will be directed to a counselor. For a third offense, a $20 citation may be issued and the student must appear in court.
"One, we are the people. Two, a little bit louder. Three, we want justice. Four, for all students."
Dressed in green graduation caps and gowns, and orange jumpsuits, they chanted, they beat a big drum, and participated in a press conference; then they went into Monday's special session of the L.A. City Council's Public Safety Commitee and made their official public testimony.
For many it was their first time speaking to government officials and a lesson in civics and public engagement.
More than 100 students as well as parents and teachers gathered at the Van Nuys Civic Center to rally in support of a measure that aims to improve how Los Angeles deals with its truant youth. The measure, proposed by L.A. City Councilmember Tony Cardenas, would institute a number of changes to the city's daytime curfew law so as to provide a more holistic approach to student attendance problems that addresses root-causes of truancy and avoids fines.
Tami Abdollah / KPCC
L.A. City Councilmember Tony Cardenas and LAUSD board president Monica Garcia walks with students rallying to support a measure that will change how the city deals with its truant students and officially eliminate fines.
A measure to improve how Los Angeles deals with truant students passed one more hurdle Monday morning after it was approved at the city's public safety committee meeting in Van Nuys.
L.A. City Councilmember Tony Cardenas has proposed the city council amend its current truancy law, which allows police to issue $250 tickets to students for being out of class, so that those on their way or running late would not be cited.
The measure is part of an effort to focus on a more holistic, root-cause-based effort to solving student attendance problems so that kids are kept in school.
Reform backers have worked to gain such changes for years and argued that "get-tough" measures actually work against education goals as students then miss time in school going to court.
Such measures have also been criticized by civil rights organizations for unfairly targeting minority students and creating more hardships for students and families.
L.A. County's Education Coordinating Council unanimously adopted sweeping recommendations today to try and combat student attendance and truancy problems in its 81 districts.
The group publicly released its 63-page report today that advocates for a more holistic community-based effort to encourage kids to attend class and moves away from criminalizing and punitive measures.
"This report is not the end all; this report is only the beginning," said the council's vice chair Michael Nash, who chairs the task force and is the presiding judge of the Juvenile Court.
The task force and its working groups plan to continue to meet on a monthly basis to work on creating a technical manual on improving student attendance that districts can follow. The group also hopes to work with the county's Metropolitan Transportation Authority to try and get free bus passes for students, especially those who are lower-income students.