Los Angeles School Board Cuts One-Third Of Police Force, Bans Pepper Spray

The Los Angeles Unified School District has announced that it will make major changes to the Los Angeles School Police Department. Most notably, the school district has moved to cut one-third of its police force. Additional changes will include a pepper spray ban and redistributing funds to support the education of Black students. Support for Black students in the school district will include the creation of an achievement plan and the introduction of "climate coaches" that will help address implicit bias within schools.

These most recent changes were largely driven by community leaders, students and parents. Following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, there were calls to reduce police presence in predominantly Black schools. Nearly a year after Floyd's death, the city of Los Angeles has taken the first step toward addressing the concerns raised by members of the community.

“We would not be at this point, though it is delayed admittedly, without the community’s leadership,” LAUSD Board of Education President Kelly Gonez said.

“I’m glad that the plan’s development also provided an opportunity for more engagement with our students, families and the broader community.”

Despite the push from community members, a few board members stood firmly against the measure. During a debate about reducing the school police force, board member George McKenna was outspoken in his support for continued police presence in schools.

“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 said.

A 2018 study published in Education Week found that students oftentimes do not feel safer with increased police presence. When surveying students of color in Los Angeles, 73% of those surveyed felt that police were overly aggressive and 67% felt that officers escalated situations rather than de-escalating them. Adding on, reducing police presence in schools isn't a revolutionary idea. Last year, the Oakland Unified Public School District announced that it would eliminate its police department altogether.

Overall, this move has been largely praised by those around the city. After the measure was formally approved, a coalition of more than a dozen advocacy groups came together to issue a joint statement.

“This plan enacts a long-standing community demand for Counselors not Cops, and is a first step towards replacing school police with more effective strategies for student safety,” the coalition stated.

“This victory is a crucial step towards mitigating the years of disinvestment and ending the criminalization and over-policing of Black students and students of color in LAUSD.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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