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Making history: CRC's 14-0 victory at City Hall to roll back the truancy ticketing law LAMC 45.04

 

The following is a letter from the CRC Steering Committee

What is the meaning of our 14-0 victory at City Hall? 

Resize students.jpgLast Wednesday, the City of Los Angeles took an historic step toward becoming a place that upholds the civil, human and educational rights of students and their families and promotes policies that reinvest in our youth to keep them in school and away from a jail cell.

With council chambers packed by over 200 of the CRC’s allies, affiliated teachers, student members and student leaders, the city passed by a vote of 14-0 a proposal by Councilmembers Tony Cardenas and Bernard Parks to amend LA Municipal Code 45.04 (“Daytime Curfew”) to roll back the punitive ticketing of youth for tardiness and truancy.  

 

This amendment to LAMC 45.04:

  • protects youth from being given tickets at all for being late on their way to school;
  • ensures that—as an alternative to the tickets, fines, handcuffs and courts—students will be directed to counseling and remediation resources and/or submit to community service;
  • eliminates fines for the first 2 truancy tickets given to a student;
  • states that, for the 3rd and any subsequent ticket, a student may be fined or may be directed to counselling or community service;
  • reduces any fine by more than 85%, to $20-$155, in contrast to a range of $250-$1075 under the old structure;
  • states that city fines are not to exceed $20 for any individual minor;
  • allows fines to be waived for indigence at any time;
  • restores students' political freedom of speech (restores an exemption that protects students from being ticketed for truancy while off-campus protesting, for example in a walk-out). 

This amendment also codifies the important agreements between us, LAPD, LA School Police Dept, and the County Juvenile Court that we secured over the past year.

While our organization does not agree that city fines or court fees are necessary for dealing with the more serious attendance or truancy issues among youth, we believe this amendment to LAMC 45.04 takes us in the right direction.  We will continue to advocate and organize for the more complete alternatives to fines.

Our generation's fight for civil rights

We are proud to say that our organization has led the grassroots struggle to roll back LAMC 45.04 over the past six years in various schools and neighborhoods throughout the City and County of Los Angeles.Police check students

Why did we engage thousands of youth, parents, teachers, community members and allies on this issue?  We took on this campaign because LAMC 45.04 is an outrage that goes beyond the tickets themselves.  We felt a win against these tickets would be a strong contribution to the broader movement against the school to prison pipeline that we are part of.

This “daytime curfew” code has caused severe educational, civil and human rights harms, especially for our Black and Brown families.  By systematically enabling and encouraging punitive ticketing and suppressive school policing, this curfew law has been a literal gateway to LA’s jail track for many of our youth. 

LAMC 45.04 is also a powerful symbol of how twisted our social and educational policies have become.  We ticket students who are making an effort to go to their underfunded, overcrowded schools. We push out from school those struggling students who need our support the most.  And instead of using the energy of youth, parents and teachers to solve these issues, we hand over those responsibilities to judges, courts and law enforcement.  

At the Community Rights Campaign, we share a vision with many of our partners and allies in this struggle. One of the defining civil rights questions for our generation is this: Will we stand up for education, not incarceration?

We live in a state that invests more in prisons than higher education.  The United States has over 2.4 million people behind bars, with another 7 million tied to the incarceration system through court supervision. At the same time, we are cutting teachers, counselors and important programs from our schools to the point where many schools now have more police than guidance counselors. It’s not rhetoric to say that our schools are preparing our youth for prison, not a college or career path. 

To break from these policies of disinvesting from our youth and criminalizing them, to advance toward policies that truly reinvest in our youth, to keep them in school and away from a jail cell—this is key to our generation’s fight against separate and unequal education.

Giving thanks

Monica Garcia, Tony Cardenas, Michael Nash, Manuel CriolloThis week, Los Angeles made history and many people and institutions need to be thanked. For their leadership, we thank Councilmember Tony Cardenas and his staff, Judge Michael Nash, and LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia. For their critical support, we thank Councilmembers Bernard Parks and Mitch Englander, and LAUSD Board Members Nury Martinez, Steve Zimmer, Bennett Kayser and Richard Vladovic. 

We also appreciate the support of all the city councilmembers who voted for the amendment, and the role played by the LA School Police Dept and LAPD, with their openness to principled negotiation and to following the community’s lead.

We especially thank our partners ACLU and Public Counsel, our allies in the LA Chapter of the Dignity School Campaign—CADRE, Children's Defense Fund and Youth Justice Coalition—and the over three dozen educational and social justice allies who came to testify with us at city hall for the big vote. We also send a warm "Thank you!" to the thousands of supporters who watched our Youtube video and signed our online petition to help a make a difference.

But most importantly, we want thank the hundreds of young people, parents, teachers, organizers and leaders who are the Community Rights Campaign. When we started this campaign, people told us we could never win such a direct challenge to public enthusiasm for the war on crime, the politics of blame, and harsh zero tolerance policies. 

Last Wednesday, we could stand and celebrate on the steps of City Hall because we built a movement that changed the debate.  We are the change we can truly believe in. Black and Brown communities and grassroots groups in cities around the country will be able to use this victory in their own struggles.

The real civics lesson

We’ve gathered for you some of the extensive media coverage that is rolling in here.  And please take a moment to post a note to our student leaders and members on our facebook page.  They deserve more than the media’s portrayal of them as “helpless” victims or curious bystanders who came to city hall on class field trips for a “civics lesson”—when it was they who gave the real civics lesson.

Thank you for standing with us!

The CRC Steering CommitteeHaewon Asfaw, Damon Azali-Rojas, Manuel Criollo, Patrisse Cullors, Tekoah Flory, Ashley Franklin, Carla Gonzalez, Lissett Lazo, Alejandra Lemus, Barbara Lott-Holland, Eric Mann, Zoe Rawson, Andrew Terranova

PS: Don't miss a beat as we gather back up to write the next chapter of our struggle.
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