SACRAMENTO – After a months-long effort to dissolve police in California’s largest public school system, Los Angeles Unified School District administrators on Tuesday approved a plan to cut 133 police stations, ban the use of gas peppered on students and diverted $ 25 million to programs supporting students of color.
The move, which dramatically reinvents school safety in Los Angeles, followed a vote last summer during nationwide protests against the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Amid calls for racial justice, the school board slashed the district’s 400 police force by 35 percent, resulting in the resignation of 20 officers and the chief, who opposed the elimination of jobs in the district. dozens of agents.
Tuesday’s vote was the result of months of meetings on how best to reconfigure public safety in the district, which serves an estimated 650,000 students. The resulting plan eliminates 70 sworn officers, who have powers of arrest; 62 non-sworn officers; and a support staff member, leaving 211 officers in the district force.
Los Angeles high school officers will be replaced by community “climate coaches” who will mentor students, help resolve conflicts and address implicit biases.
The Oakland, Calif., School district eliminated its police force in June. But members of the Los Angeles school board, who met virtually Tuesday, are divided over whether to reduce the police presence on campus.
“It’s a big business that took a lot of coordination,” said Kelly Gonez, board member, “but I know we all know and believe our black students are certainly worth the effort.”
George McKenna, another board member, warned that “Parents expect us to have safe schools, and if you think the police are the problem, I think you have a problem yourself.”
In a statement, the school district’s new police chief Leslie Ramirez said the department has already made changes that would limit the presence of uniformed officers on campus. Chief Ramirez added that the new plan had “potential liabilities, lacked clarity and would have unintended consequences for the safety of students and staff.”
The $ 25 million cuts will also help fund a Black Student Success Plan, which will include expanded boards, teacher development, curriculum changes and other programs to support inclusion. Campus police will continue to monitor schools and be available for emergencies.
A previous district-wide survey found that the majority of parents, students and school staff felt police made their schools safer, but only 50% of black parents had a positive view of school police and only 35% of black students said they felt more secure.
District Superintendent Austin Beutner on Monday praised the Black Student Success Plan in his weekly address.
“We have systematically failed black children as a country,” said Beutner. “Schools must be part of the solution, because a good education is the most important part of the road to get out of poverty.”