The Los Angeles Unified School District unveiled a new student disciplinary effort on Tuesday, moving to decriminalize its school discipline policy and utilize more non-punitive strategies. School Police will no longer give citations for minor offenses such as fights, petty thefts, vandalism, or possession of small amount of marijuana or alcohol. Students will be referred to school administrators, counseling, or other services instead of receiving a police citation.
The change in policy comes as part of a strategy to keep students in school and out of the juvenile justice system. Research has also shown that utilizing police citations to punish students for minor offenses does not make schools safer, and often increases drop-out rates and probability to get in more serious trouble with the law.
LAUSD has an overarching goal of “building safe, respectful positive school culture through mutual respect and cooperation…” the changes in the discipline policy are only a part of this goal. The District had already passed a School Climate Bill of Rights in May of 2013 which is intended to provide school climates that focus on “safety, teaching and learning, interpersonal relationships, and the institutional environment to influence student learning and well-being”.
These changes in discipline policy and re-focusing on school culture are part of a larger state trend regarding alternative interventions designed to serve students. In February of 2014, San Francisco Unified School District adopted a resolution to prohibit suspension or expulsion for willful defiance. LAUSD had initially adopted a similar resolution in 2013. School districts should be reminded that AB 1729, signed into law in 2012, prohibits willful defiance suspensions for fist time offenses, and requires that districts first attempt alternative means of correction and intervention before implementing suspensions and expulsions for willful defiance. In July 2014, Governor Jerry Brown also announced public support for AB 420, which includes a provision prohibiting schools from expelling students for willful defiance or school disruptions.
LAUSD has shared many of its resources on this decision here.