Today is Juneteenth, a day we celebrate Black liberation and the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is especially significant this year, as the Black Lives Matter movement has led this nation, this state, and this school district on a soul-searching examination of the many ways institutional racism continues to impact Black men, women and children every day.
The police institutionally have been one of the primary institutions to persecute, discriminate against, and terrorize Black people throughout our history. They have often been trained as a paramilitary force of warriors against the people rather than guardians of the people.
The national reckoning of this moment, regarding the role of law enforcement as an instrument of systemic racism and white supremacy, has reached our school district. The question has been raised as to the value of the District’s own police force, the Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD). Do we need school police at all? Do they make campuses safer for all students and employees? Should we be spending as much money as we do on a department whose members carry guns, wear military-style uniforms, and are daily presence on our middle and high school campuses? Should we change the school police, keep them as they are, or eliminate them?
I have introduced a resolution designed to take some immediate steps while we simultaneously take a deeper look at these questions as an LAUSD community. First, I propose that we immediately freeze hiring of school police and, going forward, ban the hiring of officers from any other police forces, who risk bringing to our schools an inappropriate policing culture. Next, I believe we must change our school police out of their paramilitary uniforms, and also place them off-campus so that they are not in our schools’ hallways unless they are needed to be. And finally, I propose that we must put a halt to the use of pepper spray and K9 units on our campuses.
Most critically, my resolution will ask a group of students, parents, teachers, principals, and community safety experts to look at the key questions we need to answer about the future of LASPD and make recommendations to the Board by the end of next month. I am committed to taking further action once this group has worked through many of the implications of a serious reevaluation of the role of LASPD.
We must ensure that our schools are places where all of our students are safe and feel safe, are treated fairly, and are cared for. This is a critical step in the continuing fight for the liberation of all Black people in this country—and for guaranteeing all our students their civil rights.
To view the text of the resolution, click HERE.