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L.A. Unified Ends Random Searches in Schools

Students, parents and teachers celebrate outside L.A. Unified headquarters after the school board voted to end its random searches policy

June 18, 2019

After a multiyear campaign by students, parents and teachers, the L.A. Unified School Board has passed a resolution to end random metal detector searches in schools. The policy, which had been in place for decades, required staff to pull middle and high school students out of classes to have their bodies and belongings examined with hand-held scanners. Students reported that the searches caused anxiety and humiliation, resulted in lost learning time, and were discriminatory in nature – with Black students and students of color targeted for searches more frequently.

The resolution, which halts the random searches by July 1, 2020, does not prohibit searches for which there is reasonable suspicion a school rule or law has been violated, but prevents LAUSD from implementing other random searches or increasing law enforcement on school campuses.

The searches were put in place to purportedly increase school safety, yet studies showed that the searches did little to uncover weapons. A report by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project analyzed two years of data – covering about 5,400 searches – and found zero guns; however, 1566 school supplies were confiscated, accounting for items like markers, white out and hand sanitizer.

The campaign was led by the Students Not Suspects coalition – a group that includes the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, Public Counsel, Students Deserve, Youth Justice Coalition, Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, and United Teachers Los Angeles. The coalition will work with the district to formulate supportive policies that protect students effectively.

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