Los Angeles Moves to Limit Number of Students Arrested

Posted December 2, 2014
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
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