The Los Angeles Unified school police will stop giving citations for fighting, petty theft and other minor offenses, moving instead to refer students to counseling or other programs, according to the LA Times.
The step back from punitive law enforcement actions reflects growing research that handling minor offenses with police actions does not necessarily make campuses safer. Those actions do often push struggling students to drop out and get in more serious trouble with law enforcement, the article says.
The changes to the nation’s second-largest school system comes with broad backing from school board members, administrators, school police, a teacher union leader, a Juvenile Court judge and community activists. At the announcement on Tuesday, L.A. schools Superintendent John Deasy said “We are about graduation, not incarceration.”
Major offenses posing serious and immediate threats to school safety, including possession of weapons, will still be handled by L.A. school police, but for lesser offenses, officers and school administrators will use a new “graduated response” policy to determine the most appropriate action, says L.A. School Police Chief Steven Zipperman.
Considerations will include the student’s age, the number of prior offenses, and whether the offense can be effectively handled with a warning, a “cooling off” period, a meeting with parents or alternative discipline practice such as restorative justice (meeting with the person harmed to apologize and resolve the conflict), the article says.
Possession of tobacco, trespassing and theft of property less than $50 will be referred to school administrators. Possession of alcohol or marijuana of less than an ounce, fighting and vandalism causing less than $400 in damage will be referred to either administrators or community programs for counseling and other services.