California Police Reforms on K-12 Campuses Helping Students to Stay on Track and in School

National reports show that police contact with young people is a strong predictor of whether a student will fail to finish school, will have to repeat a year, or will end up in the juvenile justice system or criminal justice system. In fact, just one arrest doubles a child’s chance of dropping out of school.

Public Counsel and our partners have worked across California to break the cycle of police involvement and take children off the jailhouse track. In Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland, we have worked with student and parent groups to win new police policies that reduce arrests and citations of students on campus.

"If fully implemented, this policy will move Los Angeles in the right direction to becoming a nationwide leader in putting intervention and support for struggling students before arrests and juvenile court time," said Laura Faer, Statewide Education Rights Director, Public Counsel.

Los Angeles School Police Department Issues New Policy and Protocols to Significantly Reduce Student Citations and Arrests

Public Counsel, Community Rights Campaign and other community organizations have led a push for citation and arrest reforms. The effort led the Los Angeles School Police Department, the nation’s largest school police force, to drastically change its policies in 2012 regarding citation of students who were late or absent from school.

In 2013, also with CRC’s strong advocacy and support from Public Counsel, the LASPD collaborated to issue policies stopping citations for young students, 13 and younger.

Despite these major reforms, data showed that in the City of Los Angeles alone, the Los Angeles School Police Department issued nearly 1,100 arrests in 2013. 94.5% of these arrests were issued to students of color. Citations to middle school students remain a large category. Students 14 years old and younger received 45.5% (1,363) of the total citations in 2013. School fighting citations (disturbing the peace) also continues to cause concern as 39% of these tickets are issued to black students.

Community groups pushed for the adoption in August 2014 of a Los Angeles School Police Department policy on arrests and citations for minor incidents that breaks new ground in the state and the nation. The new LASPD policy requires most school fights between students — approximately 20% of all student arrests — to be addressed through interventions at an off-site YouthSource or WorkSource Center. It also requires the majority of student incidents that previously led to a citation to appear in court or a referral directly to Probation, like trespassing, tobacco possession, or damage to school property, to be referred to school officials or a YouthSource Center to receive the positive school discipline interventions that are part of District-wide policy.

Intensive advocacy by Community Rights Campaign and Public Counsel for LASPD policy changes has led to dramatic annual decreases in citations, from 11,698 (2009-10) and 10,719 (2010-11) to 7,740 (2011-12) and 3,499 (2012-13). Arrests and citations will continue to fall under the new LASPD policy.

Click here to read the press release about LA school police reforms, view the new policy and download a fact sheet.

San Francisco Schools Act to Reduce Arrests after Community Exposes Racial Gap

Public Counsel and Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth led a successful effort in San Francisco to change course on arrests and reduce the impact on African American students. San Francisco school and police leaders responded when we revealed data showing that African American young people were 39% of all students arrested on campus from 2010-2013, even though they are just 8% of San Francisco students. African American young people were 43% of all juvenile arrests by SFPD in that same period. SFPD records showed dozens of students arrested as young as ages 8-12.

Responding to concern from parents and community members that unnecessary police involvement pushes San Francisco students into the juvenile justice system and out of school each year, San Francisco Unified School District School Board members approved an agreement in February 2014 that will transform the relationship between police and the school community.

The MOU between the San Francisco Police Department and San Francisco Unified School District allows schools to request police involvement on campus to protect students and staff, to address criminal behavior by non-students, or where required by law. But it puts a strict limit on police involvement in student discipline that can and should be handled at school; set up a system of graduated responses for police, starting with a warning, for low-level offenses; and ensured parents can be present when students are interviewed by police on campus, among other major reforms.

Click here to read more about the agreement between San Francisco police and schools.

Oakland Groups Win Agreement with City Police to Reduce Growing Presence on Campus

Public Counsel worked with the Black Organizing Project in Oakland and the ACLU of Northern California to win an important new MOU between city police and the Oakland Unified School District. The agreement will address the growing police presence on campus and the concerns of communities of color over the negative impact on students’ futures.

Under the new policy, for Oakland Police Department officials operating under the COPS grant, schools will not request police response to disciplinary issues such as trespassing, loitering, or defiance. The policy also gave parents a new voice with provisions that schools must notify parents or guardians immediately after an arrest is made or when an officer wants to question a student. Police will also provide new data about school site incidents and arrests, among other changes.

Public Counsel has worked in partnership with the parents and students in the Black Organizing Project as they work to end the criminalization of black and brown students in the Oakland Unified School District, invest in alternative models of school safety that do not rely on police, and move OUSD toward a restorative justice approach to student discipline that combats the school to prison pipeline.

"The MOU was a great victory. Not just for the school board, not just for the community, not even just for BOP. This was a victory for the youth who have been victims of police misconduct and who thanks to this policy, now have a voice," said Sema’J Wyatt, BOP organizer.

Click here to read more at the Black Organizing Project website.


Press Clips: Students and Community Push for Civil Rights Changes to Los Angeles School Police Arrests and Citations

Public Counsel and the Community Rights Campaign led the fight to create a new Los Angeles School Police Department policy that will d rastically reduce ticketing and arrests of students on campus. We held a press conference on August 19 to announce the changes with students, Superintendent John Deasy, LA School Police Chief Steven Zipperman, School Board Members Monica Garcia and Steve Zimmer, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, and leaders at Manual Arts High School. The work of Public Counsel Statewide Education Rights Director Laura Faer and Education Rights Attorney Ruth Cusick were featured in the NY Times, NBC News, LA Times, Associated Press, Reuters, NPR, the LA Daily News, and many other local and national media.

 NY Times: Los Angeles to Reduce Arrest Rates in Schools


 NBC News: L.A. School Discipline Reforms Praised By Latino Educators, Experts


 LA Times: LAUSD to decriminalize student fights, petty thefts and minor offenses


 LA Times: L.A. Unified school police to stop citing students for minor offenses


 Associated Press: Los Angeles Schools Decriminalize Discipline


 NPR Here and Now (interview with Public Counsel's Ruth Cusick and Judge Michael Nash of the Los Angeles Superior Court)


 KCRW Which Way LA (interview with Public Counsel's Laura Faer, Judge Donna Groman of the Los Angeles Superior Court and Jennifer Medina of the New York Times)


 Reuters: Los Angeles schools to ease discipline policies to stem dropouts


 LA Daily News: Los Angeles Unified softens approach to policing students


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


 NBC-LA: LAUSD Eases Student Punishments for "Minor-Level" Offenses


 CBS-LA: LAUSD Police To Stop Issuing Citations For Campus Fights, Petty Theft


 Center for Public Integrity: L.A. schools program aims to keep kids out of courts


 KPCC AirTalk: New LAUSD disciplinary policy to focus on counseling, not criminalization


 KCRW Press Play: L.A.U.S.D Police Change Tactics


 Univision-34: Educación, no encarcelamiento en LAUSD