A student walks past a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school bus in Los Angeles, California on February 13, 2009.
LA Unified students head back to school on Monday morning and district officials want parents to know they should expect to see a lot more police on school campuses.
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said the increased police presence should help set parents at ease after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Among the dead were 20 children and six adults. The gunman also died in the attack.
Even before the shooting, 200 school police officers were already stationed throughout the district, including one at every high school.
To boost patrols, Deasy is drawing from LAPD, the sheriff’s department, and at least a dozen other law enforcement agencies in the county. Officials said the increased presence is not a response to any threats, rather to help reassure parents, educators and children.
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.”
James F Clay/Flickr
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.