Los Angeles Moves to Limit Number of Students Arrested

Posted December 2, 2014
Blog Los Angeles Movesto Limit Numberof Students Arrested 2014

The Los Ange­les Uni­fied School Dis­trict, the sec­ond largest in the nation, is mov­ing for­ward on a ground­break­ing agree­ment that will sharply lim­it the num­ber of stu­dents arrest­ed or tick­et­ed for mis­be­hav­ior in L.A. pub­lic schools. 

The agree­ment, the lat­est in a series of sig­nif­i­cant reforms, marks the cul­mi­na­tion of sev­er­al years of effort by local advo­cates and sys­tem lead­ers and it is great news for Los Ange­les youth. It is also an encour­ag­ing indi­ca­tor of the grow­ing momen­tum nation­wide behind efforts to reverse coun­ter­pro­duc­tive zero tol­er­ance school dis­ci­pline policies. 

From 2004 through 2009, Los Ange­les Coun­ty police and a sep­a­rate school police force issued 47,000 tru­an­cy cita­tions (near­ly 10,000 per year). Each cita­tion car­ried a min­i­mum fine of $250 and required both the stu­dent and a par­ent to attend a court hear­ing (mean­ing a missed school day for the stu­dent and often a lost work day for the par­ent). Many of these tru­an­cy tick­ets were issued to stu­dents arriv­ing late to school, even if they were only a few min­utes late and their tar­di­ness was the result of a pub­lic tran­sit delay.

In addi­tion, L.A. school police arrest­ed or issued cita­tions to thou­sands more stu­dents every year for dis­or­der­ly con­duct, van­dal­ism, alco­hol, tobac­co and mar­i­jua­na pos­ses­sion, run-of-the-mill school­yard fight­ing, or oth­er minor mis­be­hav­ior. Near­ly half the stu­dents arrest­ed or tick­et­ed were 14 or younger; near­ly all were black or His­pan­ic and hailed from low-income neigh­bor­hoods. Mean­while, L.A. Coun­ty schools sus­pend­ed thou­sands of stu­dents each year and expelled hun­dreds, many of them for will­ful dis­obe­di­ence” and oth­er vague or non-seri­ous transgressions.

These prac­tices per­sist­ed in Los Ange­les, as in many com­mu­ni­ties nation­wide – despite research show­ing that being forced to appear in court dur­ing high school near­ly quadru­ples the odds that a stu­dent will drop out. Research also shows that sus­pen­sions and expul­sions triple the like­li­hood of juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem involve­ment in the fol­low­ing year.

For­tu­nate­ly, Los Ange­les has begun to turn the sit­u­a­tion around. Over the past four years tru­an­cy tick­et­ing has been cut by more than 90 per­cent. School police stopped issu­ing cita­tions to stu­dents 12 and under (except in the most egre­gious cas­es). Addi­tion­al­ly, schools have sharply reduced the total num­ber of stu­dents sus­pend­ed and expelled. 

The new agree­ment will take the reforms sev­er­al steps fur­ther. Stu­dents involved in rou­tine fights, pet­ty theft, pos­ses­sion of tobac­co, alco­hol, or small amounts of mar­i­jua­na will be referred to youth cen­ters for coun­sel­ing and oth­er ser­vices rather than fac­ing cita­tions or arrests. 

We applaud the progress being made in Los Ange­les and are pleased to note that the Los Ange­les agree­ment close­ly mir­rors pro­to­cols forged years ago in trail­blaz­ing JDAI sites like Clay­ton Coun­ty, GA and Jef­fer­son Coun­ty, AL, which dra­mat­i­cal­ly reduced school arrests and improved school out­comes. More recent­ly, sim­i­lar pacts have been signed in juris­dic­tions like Den­ver, CO; Pasade­na, CA; Broward Coun­ty, FL; and in Bal­ti­more, MD

If your juris­dic­tion has not yet tak­en a close look at its prac­tices relat­ed to school dis­ci­pline and school arrests and par­tic­u­lar­ly if zero tol­er­ance poli­cies remain in place, now is the time for action.

As L.A. school super­in­ten­dent, John Deasy told the Huff­in­g­ton Post, We want stu­dents to be with us, not pushed out and sent to jail. We have been dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly incar­cer­at­ing, dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly cit­ing, and dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly sus­pend­ing youth of col­or, and it’s wrong.”

Casey is cur­rent­ly prepar­ing a prac­tice guide focused on School-to-Prison Pipeline reforms in Clay­ton Coun­ty, GA. It should be ready for release in ear­ly 2015.

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families