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.
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.