Los Angeles, CA – The Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD) was defunded by $25 million Tuesday, forcing the department to cut 40 percent of its current positions.
Those officers will be replaced by school “climate coaches” under the school district’s new plan, KCBS reported.
The latest blow to the LASPD comes just months after the board voted to slash the department’s budget by 35 percent, resulting in the resignation of the agency’s police chief and 20 officers, The New York Times reported.
“We demand that the school board invest in black futures and the way to start that is to defund LASPD in full,” one attendee demanded ahead of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education’s vote on Tuesday, according to KCBS.
Parents, students, and school district employees had previously participated in a LAUSD-commissioned poll that showed a majority of them wanted to keep officers on campus.
But the poll also revealed that only 35 percent of black students and 50 percent of black parents feel safe with officers in the schools, The New York Times reported.
The Board of Education decided to go against the majority of students, parents, and staff members who support the LASPD, and opted instead to do away with 133 of the department’s current positions.
Among those losing their jobs will be 62 non-sworn officers, 70 sworn officers, and one support staff member, KCBS reported.
After the 38 percent staffing cut, the LASPD will be left with 211 officers, Los Angeles School Police Chief Leslie Ramirez said.
“I have heard the concerns of black students who have felt targeted by school police,” LAUSD Board of Education member Jackie Goldberg said in a press release after the vote. “I believe there are creative ways to keep our schools safe that don’t rely on having an officer stationed on campus.”
The district plans to replace the officers with members of the community who will come in and help mentor students, address implicit bias, and resolve conflicts, The New York Times reported.
They will be known as “climate coaches,” according to the news outlet.
In addition to eliminating well over a third of the department’s personnel, the board voted to reallocate $25 million from the LASPD to dump into the $36.5 million Black Student Achievement Plan, KCBS reported.
The plan aims to provide black students with counselors, professional development, and other wellness and school climate improvements, according to the news outlet.
Addressing social justice will also be a focus of the Black Student Achievement Plan.
“Student safety is everyone’s responsibility and starts with creating a school environment that is centered in students’ social-emotional wellbeing,” LAUSD Board of Education President Kelly Gonez said in the board’s press release announcing the defunding of the LASPD. “The Board’s investment in the Black Student Achievement Plan ensures we are actively working to promote equity across the District.”
Board member Monica Garcia touted the decision as a fantastic way to “interrupt the school to prison pipeline,” according to the press release.
“We all have more work to do,” Garcia added.
Board member Scott Schmerelson said black students “have often been shortchanged by public education,” and that they will now be “prioritized” under the newly-adopted plan.
The push to defund the LASPD and to adopt the Black Student Achievement Plan was a joint effort by multiple advocacy groups, including Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin noted in the press release.
“I’m proud to be a part of today’s historic decision,” Franklin said.
The LASPD has now been left to figure out how to protect the students and faculty with far less funding and a decimated police force.
There are currently approximately 650,000 students in the district, The New York Times reported.
“Although LASPD was not part of the decision making relative to the new policy recommendations that were announced today, we feel the proposed policy language has potential liabilities, lacks clarity, and will result in unintended consequences impacting the safety of students and staff,” Chief Ramirez said in a press release, according to KCBS.
“The LASPD’s commitment to remain focused on supporting the District and providing safety-related services that support student achievement and positive outcomes is paramount,” she wrote. “We have already initiated our plans to implement a service model and deployment strategy that aligns with protecting our school communities based on reforms that limit on-campus uniform presence.”