The nation’s second-largest school district — Los Angeles Unified — is unveiling a sweeping new agreement today to curb police involvement in minor school discipline and campus problems.
The agreement, more than two years in the making, is at the cutting edge of a national movement to stop sending students into courts for minor infractions at school.
In 2012, the Center for Public Integrity began publishing a series of reports documenting how L.A. Unified’s police — the nation’s largest school police department — were giving out more than 10,000 court citations a year to kids mostly for minor infractions.
A 12-year-old boy was handcuffed and arrested in reaction to a first-ever fight with a friend during a basketball game — his parents were not called first — and two first graders were issued citations for disturbing the peace after a scuffle, the Center found.
The new protocol “is a significant step forward to ensuring that student behavior is not inappropriately criminalized but rather met with interventions that will address the root causes of a student’s behavior,” said Ruth Cusick, Los Angeles-based education rights attorney with Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono law group.
“Taking school fights out of the courtroom and instead teaching students about conflict resolution will keep more students in school on a path to success,” Cusick she continued.
About 20 percent of all student arrests are related to fights. The new protocol sets out requirements for how students must instead be referred to counseling at school or at community sites known as YouthSource Centers.
Students accused of other misbehavior that has resulted in police issuing them court citations must now be referred back to school for counseling on a campus or at a YouthSource Center. These infractions can include minor use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana possession or minor damage or theft of school property.
Public Counsel worked on the policy along with juvenile court judges, school administrators, police officials and the Community Rights Campaign, an L.A.-based group that has represented students in court.