Los Angeles Unified to Ease Policing Stance

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, on Tuesday, April 19, 2014, the Los Angeles Unified School District unveiled groundbreaking news by stating school police will no longer cite students for minor offenses such as fighting and petty theft. Rather, students will be referred to counseling and other programs. According to School Police Chief Steven Zipperman, “for lesser offenses, officers will use a new ‘graduated response’ policy to determine, along with school administrators, the most appropriate action without an arrest or a citation.”  Considerations to determine the most appropriate action will include whether the student is younger than 12, is a first-time offender, can be effectively handled with a warning/“cooling off” period, and a meeting with parents or an alternative discipline practice such as restorative justice.

However, major offenses posing serious and immediate threats to school safety, such as possession of weapons, still will be handled by Los Angeles school police.  Additionally, in most cases, possession of tobacco, theft of property less than $50 and trespassing will be referred to school administrators.  Possession of alcohol or marijuana of less than one ounce, and vandalism causing less than $400 in damage will be referred to either administrators or community programs for counseling and other services.

This decisive step back from punitive law enforcement actions reflects growing research that handling minor offenses with police actions does not necessarily make campuses safer, but often pushes struggling students to drop out and get in more serious trouble with the law.  National studies show that one arrest doubles a student’s chance of dropping out of school and another study found that Texas students who were suspended were far more likely to repeat a grade, drop out and have further run-ins with the juvenile justice system.

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