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LA officials are meeting with a team from an Atlanta suburb that has pioneered methods to reduce on-campus arrests, in hopes of creating a similar, more holistic system to deal with misbehaving students. (Sept. 13, 2012)
Los Angeles school, law enforcement and county officials are meeting Thursday with a team from an Atlanta suburb that pioneered methods to reduce on-campus arrests. They hope to create a similar, more holistic system to deal with misbehaving students.
Rather than focusing on punishment, these methods focus on looking at bad behavior as a symptom in kids, who are still mentally and emotionally developing, and trying to deal with the root causes of their actions.
The technical assistance team is headed by Judge Steven Teske of Clayton County, Georgia, who has worked on changing the response to low-level juvenile offenses since 2003. He has helped officials in counties across the country drop their arrest rates. In his own county, Teske's efforts dropped the fighting offenses in schools by 87 percent between 2002 and 2010; graduation rates rose by 20 percent.
A squad car with the Compton School Police.
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.”
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The police working for the L.A. Unified School District, the largest force in the country, came under scrutiny in recent months over charges that they were ticketing a disproportionate number of black and Latino kids for truancy. Now the school police are under fire over another issue: how many tickets they give out for a variety of infractions, and to whom.
The Labor Community Strategy Center analyzed data provided by L.A. Unified on how many tickets school police handed out from 2009 through 2011.
What they found is that, in that time, school police issued more than 33,500 tickets to youths up to 19 years old. That's an average of 28 tickets a day over the three years. These include tickets from fighting to truancy, loitering and even possession of markers that could be used for tagging.