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Counseling, Not Arrests, Is Priority in New Policing Policy for Los Angeles Schools

The police force for the nation's second largest school system will now send most students who get into trouble for fighting, bringing tobacco or alcohol to campus, and other minor offenses to counseling rather than issuing citations or arresting them, Los Angeles Unified school district officials will announce later today.

This new district policing policy is meant to reverse an era of zero tolerance that put using arrests and juvenile justice referrals ahead of counseling services and other interventions for struggling students. There is mounting national research that shows students who get into trouble with law enforcement are at greater risk for dropping out of school and ending up in jail or prison.

And students who end up getting arrested or referred to juvenile justice are disproportionately African-American and Latino, studies show. The same is true in Los Angeles Unified, where in 2013, nearly 95 percent of the 1,100 arrests made by the district's police department were students of color.  Black students were disproportionately arrested that year: They make up less than 10 percent of the district, but comprised 31 percent of the arrests.

Los Angeles Unified's discipline policy was overhauled last year when district officials banned the use of out-of-school suspensions for students who are defiant. The move was hailed as a national model for school districts to follow to combat the out-of-whack rates of suspensions and expulsions of students of color.

Under the new Los Angeles Unified police department policy, most fights between students at school would have to be referred to two off-site intervention centers. And rather than ticketing and referring students to juvenile court for offenses such as trespassing, or damaging school property, police would send them to an off-site center for positive discipline interventions.

The new policy comes after years of concerns and complaints from community groups and civil rights advocates, who worked with the Los Angeles Unified police to draft and implement the reforms.

 

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