Students Call for Greater Accountability, Transparency and Restrictions on Los Angeles School Police Department

Student Led Events on Several LAUSD Campuses: San Fernando Valley, South Los Angeles and Westchester Area

Student Day of ActionOn January 26th, 2010, LAUSD students from the Community Rights Campaign launched a new initiative for greater accountability from the Los Angeles School Police Department with actions at Manuel Arts, Westchester, and Cleveland High Schools. Students weathered the rain to promote the campaign to students, teachers and community members at these sites in coordination with the release of the Community Rights Campaign and Los Angeles Chapter of the Dignity in School's, Police in LAUSD Schools. The document calls for greater transparency, accountability and the creation of new policies and procedures that restrict the use of force and role of police in our schools to protect the civil/human rights of all LAUSD students In conjunction with the release of Police in LAUSD Schools, the campaign aims to impact the discussion at the LAUSD Board as they select a new Chief of School Police.

At Cleveland High School in the San Fernando Valley, thirty students held a peaceful rally and performed spoken word poetry across the street from the campus as school began to let out. Lissett Lazo, Community Rights Organizer and graduate of Cleveland High School said, "Our greatest concern is that there is no clear mechanism of oversight in place to hold the Los Angeles School Police Department accountable for their actions. If a student feels her rights have been violated, there is no independent body to investigate the claim and determine the outcome of this situation. This heightens the anxiety and hostility students experience at school-thus leading to more student push-outs."

One of the speakers at the rally was a Latino student, John Flores, who spoke of how he was taken into the bathroom by two school police officers at his former high school, Sylmar High also in the San Fernando Valley, and beaten until he ultimately lost consciousness. He talked of the fear he felt for his life and afterwards the painful outcome of achieving no real resolution or accountability for what happened to him.

During the lunch period at Westchester High School, students passed out "No to Pre-Prisons" buttons, fliers and stickers. The buttons and stickers asked students and teachers how they would rather spend LAUSD education funds-prioritizing $50 million for LASPD or restoring cuts to the faculty and staff and arts and cultural programs. The students talked to their peers, teachers and administrators about solutions and resources-like mental health counseling and peer mediation groups-that could better address fighting, truancy, and other discipline and student conduct issues.

Andrew Terranova, Westchester Teacher, said, "School conduct needs to be put back in the hands of the school and out of the hands of law enforcement. As a teacher I lose control of my classroom when students are removed from my class. If my students don't feel respected on campus by other adults, we need to find long-term solutions to keep our students in school through a holistic approach that involves students, parents, teachers and administrators and appropriate resources."

At Manual Arts High School in South Los Angeles, students and community activists organized fellow students, teachers and other community members to call Board Member Marguerite LaMotte urging her to support the adoption of the recommendations in Police in LAUSD Schools.

Barbara Lott-Holland, organizer for the Community Rights Campaign, said: "We urge the Los Angeles School Board of Education and the Los Angeles School Police Department to work with us in creating greater accountability and new policies that restrict the role and use of force of LASPD inside our schools. If nothing is done to address the issues that we have raised in our document, and then let us understand that the civil/human rights of all LAUSD students are at risk."

Police in LAUSD Schools highlights:

  • News stories and reports on incidents of misconduct by the Los Angeles School Police Department dating back five years.
  • Reports of police misconduct gathered from over 1,500 student surveys collected by the Community Rights Campaign at 18 LAUSD high schools. They include incidents of excessive force and restraint, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, intimidation, frequent and indiscriminate use of mace and pepper spray on large numbers of students, racial profiling, handcuffs used on students' whose "crime" was being late, frequent searches, and more.
  • Recommendations on principles that should shape the role of school police in our schools, with an emphasis on non-punitive forms of student accountability, decreased reliance on courts and citations, guaranteed civil rights protections, and increased use of public health- and mental health-centered interventions.

The five concrete policy recommendations from Police in LAUSD Schools are:

  • Establish an independent and enforceable Police Review Board made up of parents, students, and community members with the power to provide accountability.
  • Conduct a comprehensive review and assessment with student, parent and community input of the current standards, procedures, and practices of school police including use of force, arrest, role and conduct.
  • Provide detailed and publicly available records of LASPD including but not limited to arrests, tickets, complaints on police misconduct and resolutions to such complaints.
  • Establish an Office of Equal Protection, as approved but not yet acted upon in the 2007 Equal Protection motion.
  • Ensure no collaboration of LAUSD/LASPD with gang database.