As a national debate heats up over appropriate student discipline, new data from Los Angeles reveal that school police there issued more than 33,500 court summonses to youths between 10 and 18 in three years — with more than 40 percent of those tickets going to children 14 and younger.
The data obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show that officers of the nation’s largest school police force issued the equivalent of 28 tickets every day to students during the 2011 calendar year. The Los Angeles Unified School District totals almost 680,000 pupils; the district’s police force has 340 sworn officers and support staff.
Students ticketed in 2009 through 2011 were disproportionately Latino or African American. Last year, black students represented about 10 percent of the Los Angeles Unified School District but 15 percent of those ticketed. In 2010, black students were 20 percent of those cited.
Latinos, about 73 percent of the district enrollment, represented 77 percent of those cited last year. White students, nine percent of enrollment, were about 3 percent of those ticketed.
This sheer volume of citations, the racial and ethnic statistics and the number of younger children cited have all contributed to a brewing controversy over the role of police in public schools in Los Angeles.
Among those who have expressed concern is Judge Michael Nash, who presides over Los Angeles’ juvenile courts, and has actively supported reforms to reduce police citations for incidents he believes should be handled in schools or through counseling or meetings with parents outside court.
“How much time do our courts have to deal with these kids? I don’t think this has been effective, and it has dealt with them in a superficial way,” Nash said.