A new report by the Community Rights Campaign shows that police employed by the Los Angeles Unified School District issued dramatically fewer citations to students for truancy and substantially fewer citations overall this past school year compared with the year before. However, based on enrollment, African American and Latino students were still disproportionately cited, the report found, with the gap between African American and white students growing.
Compared with the 2011-12 school year, district police in 2012-13 gave more than 80 percent fewer citations for being late or not showing up to school and half as many citations overall for issues such as fighting or possessing alcohol or cigarettes, according to the October 2013 report, Black, Brown and Over-Policed in LA Schools by the Campaign, which is part of the Labor/Community Strategy Center, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles.
The drop in truancy violation citations has plummeted during the past four years from 3,341 issued in 2009-10 to 209 through May 2013, the report says. So far this year, only 77 citations for truancy have been issued in the district of 655,494 students, according to LAUSD.
Instead of getting citations, many truant students are referred to one of 13 city youth centers for counseling and other services aimed at getting them on track academically.
But compared to white students within LAUSD, Latino students in 2012-13 were more than twice as likely to be arrested or ticketed for any offense, and African American students were almost six times more likely, according to the report. This occurs because of the larger police presence in schools that serve black and brown students, says Manuel Criollo, director of organizing for the Community Rights Campaign.
In a press release, LAUSD said that in 2011-12, the last year for which complete data are available, there was an overall reduction of 22 percent in citations given to African American students and 44 percent to Latino students compared with the previous year.
“Dramatic progress like this should be celebrated,” the release said. “Instead the Community Rights Campaign zeros in on a statistic that is not illuminating.”
The Campaign’s report recognizes the progress that has been made, but it calls for further efforts to reduce citations, including eliminating issuing them to middle and elementary school students for minor offenses. Instead, the district needs to institute supportive programs such as restorative justice that force young people to remedy the harm they have done and get to the root causes of their behavior, the report states.
Such programs can “transform the person’s point of view,” Criollo said. When a student is given a citation, he tends to blame the person he was in conflict with and the problem festers, he added.
Criollo credits the leadership shown by Superintendent John Deasy and LAUSD Police Chief Steven Zipperman for much of the progress that has been made. The report calls for the district’s school board to develop a protocol that clearly defines the role of law enforcement and the role of administrators so the approach will not depend on who is leading the district and police force.