LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Los Angeles school board has voted unanimously to replace school police officers on campuses with staff trained in de-escalation strategies and conflict resolution and approve a $36.5 million Black Student Achievement Plan.
The board, which met on Tuesday, Feb. 16, voted to cut 133 school police positions — 70 sworn employees, 62 non-sworn employees and one support staff member.
Instead of officers, school climate coaches will be stationed at all secondary schools. Officers will remain on call to respond to emergencies and incidents on campuses with a goal of a three-to-five minute response time.
The school climate coach role will be to assist administrators and staff to support a safe and positive school culture and climate for all students and staff.
“Student safety is everyone’s responsibility and stars with creating a school environment that is centered in students social-emotional well-being,” Board President Kelly Gonez said. “The board’s investment in the Black Student Achievement Plan ensures we actively working to promote equity across the district.”
The staff reductions reduce the school police department’s annual budget from $77.5 million to $52.5 million.That $25 million budget cut will be invested in a Black Student Achievement plan, which the board also approved to improve instruction for low performing students.
The Black Student Achievement Plan will allocate funds for curriculum and instruction, professional development, additional counselors, psychiatric social workers and many other resources.
“By approving the Black Student Achievement Plan, the board has made a commitment to provide multiple resources needed for academic success,” Board member Schmerelson said. “We are committed to prioritizing the group of students who have often been shortchanged by public education.”
Joseph Williams, of Students Deserve Justice, said that while the school board did not vote on their “Reimagining Student Safety Proposal,” the Black Student Achievement Plan was closer to their goals than the district’s December version.
“There are so many things that we’re advocating for as part of this plan and we’re so happy to see that the superintendent has amended his proposal from what he proposed in December … to actually center what students and community members have been asking for, and the resources in a targeted way that students and community members have been asking for,” said Williams, who called into the board’s meeting Tuesday.
Board member George McKenna, who voiced opposition for the proposal but voted yes said, “If in fact, school police are unnecessary, who are you going to call when stuff hits the fan, and how do you measure that which was prevented and never occurred because the presence of a police officer was a prevention.”
“The parents expect us to have safe schools, and if you think the police are the problem, I think you got a problem yourself,” he added.
Board members also voted to prohibit the Los Angeles School Police Department from using oleoresin capsicum spray, also known as pepper spray, on students.
Previously, they were allowed to use the riot control tactic on students for “self-defense or defending others from imminent threat or physical force of violence,” according to previous guidelines.
The approved proposal includes the development of oversight and accountability committees, including:
— the Black Student Achievement Steering Committee, which will develop and monitor strategies to improve achievement;
— the Black Student Achievement Staff Working Group, which be made up of LAUSD staff and will oversee and evaluate initiatives; and
— the Oversight and Accountability Team, which will be responsible for day-to-day monitoring.
“Obviously this is a big undertaking and required a lot of coordination, but I know we know and all believe that our Black students are certainly worth this effort,” Gonez said during the meeting.
Student board member and Los Angeles Crenshaw High School STEMM Magnet senior Kamarie Brown said, “Believe in our Black students, invest in our Black students and show it today by passing this resolution end the war on Black students and to put LAUSD on a path based on principles of community and justice.
“Police do not equal peace, police do not equal safety. On the contrary, police and the culture of policing that runs across the faculty and administrators is one of the longest standing contradictions of educating Black students at LAUSD,” she said.
Prior to the vote, a survey was presented to board members which collected responses from more than 35,000 LAUSD high school students, 6,600 parents and 2,300 certified and classified staff members on high school campuses.
According to the survey, 51% of LAUSD students feel that having school police on campus makes the school safe, but only 35% of Black students said they felt it made the school safe.
A quarter of Black female students said they do not feel safe with school police on campus, the survey reported.
The survey also found a significant portion of parents and staff that opposed or were neutral regarding a potential, significant reduction of the school police department’s budget by 90% over the next three years. Only 14% of parents and 23% of staff were in support.
Additionally, 63% of parents and 71% of staff supported the district engaging in a study of potential changes to ensure peaceful and safe campuses.
On Monday, Feb. 15, Superintendent Austin Beutner announced a $200 million commitment to address achievement gaps among Black students and others in the district.
“We’ve been systematically failing Black children as a country.
Schools must be part of the solution, because a great education is the most important part of the path out of poverty,” Beutner said. “While we at L.A. Unified don’t have all the answers, we’re committed to making change.”