LAUSD votes against defunding school police, Superintendent introduces School Safety Task Force


Chris Torres

Xavier Recarte (left) and his mother, Maria Recarte hold signs in support of the rally to defund the Los Angeles School Police Department on June 23.

Sloane Bozzi, Assistant News Editor

The Los Angeles Unified School District board rejected three resolutions on Tuesday to reform the Los Angeles School Police Department. One of the rejected resolutions, proposed by board member Monica Garcia, would have defunded the LASPD by 50% in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

The LASPD is the largest independent school police department in the United States and operates within a $70 million annual budget. The LASPD employs 410 sworn police officers and 101 non-sworn school safety officers, according to the LASPD website.

If Garcia’s resolution had passed, a gradual decrease in funding would continue to the 2024 fiscal year. By the 2022-23 school year, funding would have decreased by 75% and 90% by the 2023-24 school year.

Garcia proposed redirecting funds from the LASPD budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year to the highest need schools in support of African American students.

The push to defund the LASPD comes after many organizers promoted a people’s budget for the city that would defund the Los Angeles Police Department. The LASPD, however, is independent.

During the board meeting, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles organized a protest in front of the LAUSD headquarters, in support of Garcia’s resolution to defund the LASPD.

Many young protesters joined the board meeting for the public comment portion.

“School police does not make us any more comfortable,” said Amara Abdullah, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Youth Vanguard and incoming Hamilton High School freshman. “You can’t expect us to do as well in school as white students if we feel criminalized every time we walk into campus.”
The United Teachers Los Angeles supported Garcia’s resolution and voted 35-2 in support of eliminating the budget for school police on June 3.

“While we believe it needs to spell out a faster timeline and deeper divestment, Monica Garcia’s motion to remove 90% of school police by 2024 most closely aligns with what the UTLA Board of Directors overwhelmingly supported — 100% elimination of the budget for school police,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement.

In her final statement before the resolution was voted on, Garcia reminded the board of the responsibility they have to protect students of color.

“People of color will help the world deal with its challenges. L.A. Unified has to figure out how to do more for people of color,” Garcia said. “Privilege exists in our organization. We either interrupt it or we perpetuate it.”

Garcia’s resolution failed 4-3. Board member Kelly Gonez abstained until further information from stakeholders is presented.

Those who did not support Garcia’s resolution defended the police’s ability to protect schools from shooting threats and criminals on the perimeter of campuses.

Todd Chamberlain, the chief of the LASPD, joined the later half of the board meeting to explain his sentiment towards the resolutions on the table.

“When I look at the possibility of defunding this organization, I have major concerns with it as a chief that’s been here for seven months,” Chamberlain said. “Because you’re going to still have people victimized, you’re still going to have crime, you’re still going to have an environment that’s not safe.”

“I’m talking about the student that wakes up every day, shuffles off to school where they just want to have a day,” Chamberlain said. “They don’t want to be victimized, they don’t want to be bullied, they don’t want to be mistreated.”

On the opposite side of the reform spectrum was Dr. George McKenna’s resolution, which called on the existing District School Safety Task Force to meet to review and study data regarding the Los Angeles School Police involvement in student and campus incidents.

“Without a study, you don’t have facts. You just have beliefs,” McKenna said. “I think that a study is necessary because objective people need to get data that is current data.”

McKenna said the discussion of reforming school police is reactionary.

“I think that school police are being unfairly demonized by an organizational effort that has organized students to say ‘Police are harmful to us’ because you can’t be a victim unless you create a villain,” McKenna said. “School police are not municipal police.”

McKenna’s resolution failed 5-3.

Similar to McKenna’s resolution, board member Jackie Goldberg proposed feedback collection from a group of representatives to evaluate school safety and the need for police on LAUSD campuses.

Goldberg proposed the establishment of a “Reimagining School Safety Action Planning Group” which would be made up of the LAUSD superintendent, a member from the Student Board, community safety experts, and LAUSD school and student representatives. The group would then report back to outline recommendations on school safety and the need for police on LAUSD campuses.

The resolution would have immediately implemented a hiring freeze for new sworn personnel and not allow for the hiring of LASPD officers that have previously been employed with another law enforcement agency. Notably, the use of pepper spray and K-9 units were also going to be suspended through Goldberg’s resolution.

Board member Gonez and Melvoin amended Goldberg’s resolution to include a $20 million immediate reduction in the police budget. There was a brief discussion of potentially combining Goldberg’s resolution with McKenna’s through a motion to substitute.

Gonez and Melvoin redacted their support if the two were to be combined. In the interest of winning over board members, Goldberg decided against joining forces with McKenna.

Goldberg’s resolution failed 5-3.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner announced a nine-member School Safety Task Force, where meetings would be facilitated by Alfonzo Webb, the Administrator of Operations for the LAUSD Local East District.

Beutner recommended on June 15 that the use of chokeholds and pepper spray by school police be banned. He reminded the board of this recommendation before announcing the School Safety Task Force.

“This effort needs to go much deeper if we’re going to make real change,” Beutner said. “I’ve asked a small group of community members with deep expertise in this area to work alongside a team from Los Angeles Unified with deep experience in schools to take a careful look at the role of school police.”

Alongside Beutner, a group of attorneys, former educators and administrators would serve on the task force.

Only two women, Debra Bryant, administrator of operations for LAUSD Local District Northwest and Yasmin Cader, a former federal public defender for juveniles and adults, would serve on the task force.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:42 p.m., nearly 12 hours after it had started. The budget that was supposed to be addressed in the meeting was postponed until next week’s meeting which will take place at 9 a.m. on June 30.