Continued Emphasis on Help Instead of Criminalization
LOS ANGELES – Expanding successful efforts to help students improve behavior and succeed academically, Los Angeles School Police are continuing to embrace proactive, non-punitive enforcement strategies. Tickets no longer will be issued for minor violations, such as most campus fights, petty thefts, vandalism, trespassing or possession of tobacco or a small quantity of marijuana. Instead, most offenders will be referred to the school administrators or FamilySource centers for intervention, problem solving and support.
“This is another of many policy shifts intended to decriminalize student behavior, when possible, and to keep youth in school and out of the juvenile justice system,” Superintendent John E. Deasy said. Coupled with efforts to support social emotional learning, attendance improvement, and Wellness clinics, District staff are teaching students what is expected of them and providing resources to facilitate positive behavior.
Board Member Mónica García said, “Change is good. Change is necessary to move this District towards 100% graduation.” She added, “When the Board passed the School Climate Bill of Rights in May 2013, we united with this community that wanted to see investment in learning and not incarceration. The policy change we announce today will change rules for our District. Our expectation is that it changes outcomes for children, behavior for adults and the world we live in.”
School Police Chief Steve Zipperman explained the new, graduated response as mutual cooperation between members of the Los Angeles School Police Department and school administrators. “Our officers will work with school administrators to provide the most appropriate intervention and resolution of an incident without an arrest or a citation for certain offenses.” For example, an officer may talk to a student, issue a warning or provide an opportunity for the youth to de-escalate the behavior. Next step for a first-time offender would be a referral to a school administrator or to a diversion program. The changes apply to students, ages 13 through 17.
Today’s announcement is part of an overarching Restorative Justice philosophy L.A. Unified is rolling out via the School Discipline Foundation Policy and the School Climate Bill of Rights. These are intended to help youth make better decisions, engage them in school and encourage them to invest in their own success. Depending on the offense, the process would involve their families and encourage students to accept responsibility, repair any harm caused and address the root causes of the conduct to prevent reoccurrence and, if necessary, support healing.
Arrests, suspensions and expulsions would still occur depending on the severity of the offense to keep schools safe and prevent disruption to instruction. Exceptions to the new Diversion Referral policy include: one of the combatants or victims has an injury requiring medical treatment by paramedics; officers break up a fight using reportable force; one or more of the combatants has a documented history of disturbing the peace or battery citation; and/or arrest; or has failed to complete a prior diversion for the same offense; the subject has a warrant or the victim demands an arrest. All marijuana violations shall include the assistance of school police for purposes of contraband recovery.
Earlier successes of L.A. Unified discipline changes, included a sharp decline in suspensions, a reduction in student arrests, as well as using a diversion program in place of most truancy citations.
Students 12 and younger are neither arrested nor ticketed for minor law violations.