District breathlessly announces+spins implementation of policy changes that have been ongoing at least five years
LOS ANGELES TO REDUCE ARREST RATE IN SCHOOLS
By JENNIFER MEDINA, New York Times | http://nyti.ms/1n6dfZ1
The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second-largest school system in the country, behind New York City, but has the largest school police force, with more than 350 armed officers. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
AUG. 18, 2014 | LOS ANGELES — After years of arresting students for on-campus fights and damaging school property, Los Angeles school officials are adopting new policies to reduce the number of students who are disciplined in the juvenile court system.
Under new policies expected to be introduced Tuesday, students who deface school property, participate in an on-campus fights or are caught with tobacco will no longer be given citations by officers from the Los Angeles School Police Department. Instead, they will be dealt with by school officials.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second-largest school system in the country, behind New York City, but has the largest school police force, with more than 350 armed officers.
A report last year by the Labor/Community Strategy Center, a civil rights group, found that students at Los Angeles schools were far more likely to receive a criminal citation than students in Chicago, Philadelphia or New York.
Several studies, including one released last year by the federal Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, have found that black and Latino students are far more likely to face harsh disciplinary procedures. A department study released this year found that black students faced more severe discipline as early as preschool: Nearly half of all preschool children suspended were African-American.
Michael Nash, the presiding judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Courts, who was involved in creating the new policies, said that the juvenile justice system was overtaxed, and that the changes would ensure that the courts were dealing only with youngsters who “really pose the greatest risk to the community.”
“There are enough studies that show bringing them into the justice system is really more of a slippery slope that leads to negative outcomes and poor futures,” Judge Nash said. “The people who are in these schools need to deal with these issues, not use the courts as an outlet. We have to change our attitude and realize that the punitive approach clearly hasn’t worked.”
Judge Nash cited examples of students who were sent to court for using profanity while arguing with a teacher.
“What is the court going to do? The kid is going to lose a day of school, and the family is going to get a fine they aren’t going to be able to afford,” he said. “What’s the point of that?”
Both Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have decried the negative impact of “zero tolerance” policies. National studies have also shown that students are more likely to drop out if they are arrested, and many advocates have long criticized harsh discipline as part of what they call the “school to prison pipeline.”
School systems in Northern California and Georgia have also made similar changes in recent years.
“We want schools to be a place where kids are pre-med or pre-jobs, not pre-prison,” said Manuel Criollo, the director of organizing at the Labor/Community Strategy Center, which has pushed for the changes in the district for years. “Students really have been profiled inside the school setting, instead of getting the help they need from school counselors.”
Students 14 years old and under received more than 45 percent of the district’s 1,360 citations in 2013, according to the Strategy Center. African-American students, who account for about 10 percent of the total population, received 39 percent of “disturbing the peace” citations, typically given for fights.
A citation is referred to the county Probation Department, which can then prevent teenagers from receiving a driver’s license. An arrest usually leads to a mandatory appearance in Juvenile Court for the student and his or her parents, and often a fine. Cases of arrested students are passed to the district attorney, who decides whether or not to pursue charges.
“We’re talking about schoolyard fights that a couple of decades ago nobody would have ever thought would lead to arrest,” said Ruth Cusick, an education rights lawyer for Public Counsel, a nonprofit group that helped draft the new policies. “The criminalizing of this behavior only goes on in low-income communities.”
In 2012, Los Angeles school officials stopped citing students who arrived late for class. That has reduced the number of citations for absent students by more than 90 percent, while attendance rates have largely stayed steady or improved, Judge Nash said.
LAUSD policy restricts use of citations, arrests
By Susan Frey | Ed Source | http://bit.ly/1vdugWC
August 19, 2014 | Students involved in relatively minor offenses on school campuses will no longer be cited or arrested under Los Angeles Unified’s new policy, which takes effect this school year and spells out alternatives district police officers must follow.
The policy, which was formalized in August, requires district police to refer students to school administrators or an off-campus city resource center if they are involved in crimes, such as theft, damaging school property, fighting, or possession of tobacco, alcohol or marijuana.
The policy also limits arrests for battery unless there is an injury that requires medical attention or a pattern of repeat offenses. Students who have committed battery would also be sent to a FamilySource Center or YouthSource Center (for older youth), which are staffed by the city and the district.
“Juvenile court should be the last resort for youth who commit minor school-based offenses,” said Los Angeles County Juvenile Delinquency Court Judge Donna Groman in a news release. She said schools are better equipped to address school-time behavior through restorative justice and other alternative means. “I applaud LAUSD and will ensure that the new policy is shared both nationally and statewide as a model response,” Groman said.
For the past couple of years, district police have informally been following this policy after community organizations and the federal government took issue with the disproportionate numbers of African-American and Latino students cited or arrested for relatively minor offenses, entangling them in the juvenile justice system at often young ages. In 2012-13, the L.A. school police department issued about 3,499 citations compared to 7,740 in 2011-12, said Zoe Rawson, a legal advocate with the Community Rights Campaign, which along with Public Counsel, a public interest law firm, has been working with the district to change the approach taken by school police.
“Citations were the response to almost anything that happened,” said Zoe Rawson, a legal advocate with the Community Rights Campaign.
“Citations were the response to almost anything that happened,” Rawson said. “Although they have been decreasing dramatically, we needed an official policy that spells out a process for how kids are referred to alternatives.”
Even though things are improving, Rawson said, in 2013 L.A. school police made nearly 1,100 arrests, with 94.5 percent of those arrested being African-American or Latino students. African American students made up less than 10 percent of the population, but received 31 percent of all arrests.
Some bad behaviors, such as possessing tobacco or stealing something worth less than $50, automatically will go to a school administrator, Rawson said. Administrators will be relying on restorative justice practices, where students have to make amends for the problems they have caused. For example, if a student used spray paint on a school wall, that student could be required to clean off the graffiti and apologize to the school community. More serious offenses could require the student to go to the off-campus resource centers, where counselors can determine what the surrounding circumstances are and deal with the root causes of the misbehavior. Students and their families can get help, such as enrolling in a substance abuse program.
In addition, if police need to arrest a student, the officer should consider ways to not disrupt the learning environment if students do not pose a threat, Rawson said. Instead of pulling a student out of class, for example, the officer could wait until the class was dismissed.
The new policy follows the passage of the School Climate Bill of Rights by the L.A. Unified School Board in May 2013 that “laid out a vision of where we want the district to go,” said Ruth Cusick, an attorney with Public Counsel. Police Chief Steve Zipperman “has been a good-faith partner at the table with us,” she added.
<<Credit: Courtesy of Shamar Theus | Bryanna Jones, a member of the Black Organizing Project, speaks to the Oakland Unified school board in support of limiting the police role on school campuses.
The policy is based on the idea of a “graduated response intervention model” promoted by a Georgia judge, Steven Teske, in a 2011 report. The model “recognizes that students that may have committed the same offense have different needs and different risk levels,” Cusick said. She pointed out that 45.5 percent of students receiving citations in the first half of 2013 were 14 years old or younger.
“These are children in need of support and resources rather than a school response that previously had been so harsh,” Cusick said.
However, L.A. Unified is not requiring that police officers contact parents or another adult chosen by the student before interrogating students, something that has been put in place by three other unified districts – Pasadena, San Francisco and Oakland.
“Unfortunately, we have nothing yet around interrogation and questioning,” Rawson said.
Susan Frey covers expanded learning, foster youth and adult education. Email her or Follow her on Twitter. Sign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
LAUSD to decriminalize student fights, petty thefts and minor offenses
August 19, 2014 7:52AM :: The Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday is set to announce a major change in the way students are disciplined for some offenses. School police will no longer issue citations for most campus fights, petty theft and other minor offenses, but instead refer students to counseling and other services. Students involved in most fights – which make up about 20% of all student arrests – will be referred to city YouthSource Centers for counseling and other services. Students involved in minor theft or possession of alcohol, tobacco or small amounts of marijuana also will be referred to school or community officials rather than the criminal justice system.
L.A. Unified police to stop citations for most minor campus offenses
August 18, 2014- 11:23PM :: In a groundbreaking agreement, Los Angeles Unified school police will no longer issue citations for most campus fights, petty theft and other minor offenses but instead refer students to counseling and other services, district officials are set to announce Tuesday. The decisive step away from punitive law enforcement actions reflects growing research that treating minor offenses with police actions does not necessarily make campuses safer, but often pushes struggling students to drop out and get in more serious trouble with the law.
LA SCHOOL REPORT
LAUSD announcing new strategies for student discipline
Cambios en disciplina para estudiantes del LAUSD
AUG, 19, 2014 9:00 AM EST :: Un nuevo cambio en cómo se aplican las medidas disciplinarias a los estudiantes del Distrito Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD), y que ya ha sido puesto en marcha, será oficializado hoy cuando se realice el anuncio oficial. Las nuevas medidas buscan que la Policía Escolar tenga un menor rol en los recintos escolares, y además incorporarán protecciones a los estudiantes y alternativas al sistema judicial juvenil.
Los Angeles schools make discipline less harsh
August 19, 2014 :: Students at the nation's second largest school district will be shielded from prosecution and sent to administrators for low-level offenses as part of a sweeping reform to the way school police respond to bad behavior. Zoe Rawson of the Community Rights Campaign says students caught fighting or possessing alcohol or marijuana will receive interventions by a guidance counselor or school administrator, a shift that will prevent students, especially minorities, from becoming mired in the criminal justice system.