LAUSD Makes Major Changes to Discipline Policy

By EGP Staff Report

A major shift in how Los Angeles Unified handles issues related to student discipline was announced Monday by district officials. School police will no longer issue citations for most campus fights, petty theft and other minor offenses but instead refer students to counseling and other services, according to the district.

“This is another of many policy shifts intended to decriminalize student behavior, when possible, and to keep youth in school and out of the juvenile justice system,” Superintendent John E. Deasy said.

The changes are intended to help youth make better decisions, engage them in school and encourage them to invest in their own success, according to an LAUSD statement. Depending on the offense, a student’s families could be involved.

“Coupled with efforts to support social emotional learning, attendance improvement, and Wellness clinics, District staff are teaching students what is expected of them and providing resources to facilitate positive behavior,” according to LA Unified’s statement.

Activists, like the Los Angeles based Community Rights Campaign, having been working to reduce the police presence at local schools, and worked with the district to develop alternatives to suspensions and arrests.

“For too long our school playgrounds were minefields of penal code violations and criminalization,” Manuel Criollo with the Community Rights Campaign said in a statement. “We believe this policy reverses that trend by prioritizing supportive and restorative approaches.”

The new policy was announced at Manual Arts High School Monday by Los Angeles School Police Department Chief Steven Zipperman and Los Angeles Unified School District board member Monica Garcia.

“Change is good. Change is necessary to move this District towards 100% graduation,” Garcia said. “When the Board passed the School Climate Bill of Rights in May 2013, we united with this community that wanted to see investment in learning and not incarceration,” she said.

Zipperman said the new,
graduated response is the result of cooperation between the district’s police department and school administrators.

He said school police will work with administrators to “provide the most appropriate intervention and resolution of an incident without an arrest or a citation for certain offenses.”

For example, an officer may talk to a student, issue a warning or provide an opportunity for the youth to de-escalate the behavior, Zipperman explained. The “next step for a first-time offender would be a referral to a school administrator or to a diversion program.”

The changes apply to students, ages 13 through 17.

However, some offenses will still be subject to arrest, suspension and expulsion.

Exceptions to the new Diversion Referral policy include: one of the combatants or victims has an injury requiring medical treatment by paramedics; officers break up a fight using reportable force; one or more of the combatants has a documented history of disturbing the peace or battery citation; and/or arrest; or has failed to complete a prior diversion for the same offense; the subject has a warrant or the victim demands an arrest. All marijuana violations shall include the assistance of school police for purposes of contraband recovery.

Earlier successes of L.A. Unified discipline changes included a sharp decline in suspensions, a reduction in student arrests, as well as using a diversion program in place of most truancy citations.

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August 21, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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