LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday voted to cut 133 positions from the L.A. School Police Department, ban the use of pepper spray on students and divert $25 million in funding cut from the department to better support Black students.
During the virtual meeting, the board heard from both supporters and opponents of the move.
"We demand that the school board invest in Black futures and the way to start that is to defund LASPD in full," one attendee said.
"My question to you is, who's going to take up the role of school safety if you eliminate all of the security guards, your police force, that is there to protect the students," another attendee said.
Ultimately, the school board voted to cut 70 sworn officers, 62 non-sworn officers and one support staff member from the LASPD. Chief Leslie Ramirez said her department would be left with 211 officers after the reduction.
The sworn officers will now be replaced at secondary school sites by school climate coaches — community members who will help mentor students.
A poll commissioned by the district found that a majority of students, parents and district employees supported the presence of school police on campus, but the results also showed that only 35% of Black students felt safe with the officers on campus.
The school board also voted to divert the $25 million in cuts to LASPD to the Black Student Achievement Plan, a $36.5 million plan to support Black students by investing in school climate and wellness, social workers and counselors and professional development. The plan also includes diverse representation in curriculum and instruction and would address social justice, emphasize math classes and allocate individual school curriculum grants.
As to the larger question of whether school campuses should have a police presence, the opinions are varied and strong.
"If you have to call in outside police force, it takes time to get there and they don't necessarily know the layout of your school," one meeting attendee said. "So it's beneficial to have somebody there that actually knows how things are."
"[It's] the same students who are dramatically over represented not only in school police interactions, but by school disciplinary systems as well," another attendee said. "This is why we call on the school board to adopt a motion that does not allow schools to opt in to having school police officers on campus."
In response to the action taken by the board, Ramirez issued a written statement that said, in part:
"The LASPD's commitment to remain focused on supporting the District and providing safety-related services that support student achievement and positive outcomes is paramount. We have already initiated our plans to implement a service model and deployment strategy that aligns with protecting our school communities based on reforms that limit on-campus uniform presence. Although LASPD was not part of the decision making relative to the new policy recommendations that were announced today, we feel the proposed policy language has potential liabilities, lacks clarity, and will result in unintended consequences impacting the safety of students and staff."
On Tuesday evening, the district published a release on social media that included statements from Board President Kelly Gonez and board members Dr. George J. McKenna III, Mónica García, Scott M. Schmerelson, Nick Melvoin, Jackie Goldberg and Tanya Ortiz Franklin.
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