Students of color policed more heavily

Even elementary pupils ticketed

Cynthia E. Griffin | 10/31/2013, midnight

In a report released Wednesday during a student/community rally and street theatrical performance, The Labor/Conmmunity Strategy Center Community Rights Campaign found that despite an 80 percent reduction in truancy ticketing since February 2012 and as much as a 50 percent drop in school police ticketing across all categories, African American students are still almost six times as likely as White pupils in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to receive tickets.

Black students went from being 23 times more likely to now 29 times more likely than White students to be ticketed for “disturbing the peace.”

Latino students are more than twice as likely to be ticketed, and the citations issued are concentrated in South Los Angeles and the majority-Latino neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley, Westlake and Boyle Heights.

Additionally, 70 percent of the tickets were handed out to males and 47 percent went to youth 14 and younger.

The report, “Black, Brown and Overpoliced in L.A. Schools” also notes that virtually all of the tickets and arrests evaluated (from the school year 2012-13) were for incidents that schools traditionally handled without “criminalizing” youth prior to the institutional expansion of school policing—skipping class, smoking, drinking, writing on desks or walls, and school fights.

While acknowledging the progress that has been achieved—LAUSD’s adoption of School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and support; banning out-of-school “willful defiance” suspensions; implementation of restorative justice programs; defining and limiting the role of police on schools campuses; as well as virtually eliminating truancy and tardy tickets—the strategy center offered a number of recommendations to help further reduce what they call the “criminalization” of students of color.

These include: ceasing to ticket and arrest for student discipline matters such as disturbance and/or disruption, truancy, trespassing, loitering, and profanity; ending all Los Angeles School Police Department ticketing of elementary and middle school pupils. (Last school year three 9 year olds, four 10 year olds and 103 11 year olds were ticketed and the previous year 6, 7 and 8 year olds were cited); ensuring that civil rights are implemented at schools where there are demonstrated inequities in ticketing and arrests; implementing the future recommendations contained the Equal Protections Plan MORE INFO, a comprehensive sample policy to further define and limit the role of police in schools; and to build a robust school- and community-based alternatives for disciplines.

The report notes that the overall ticket reductions are encouraging but goes on to point out the worsening racial inequalities and the continuing problems associated with punitive school discipline and the role of police show the urgent need for more comprehensive measures of two kinds: (1) to further define and limit the role of police in schools an (2) to build robust school- and community-based alternatives for discipline.

In addition, the Strategy Center also points to the national response to school violence incidents like Sandy Hook as potentially exacerbating the problem. In Los Angeles, the progress reducing overall ticketing numbers has been matched by several steps backward. LAPD announced plans immediately following Sandy Hook to begin patrolling elementary and middle schools for the first time. Then LAUSD added a new layer of patrols, dedicating $4.2 million to assign “campus security aides” to the elementary schools and an additional $4 million to increase LASPD’s budget.