LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Students who get in trouble for fighting on campus or get caught committing petty theft will no longer receive citations at Los Angeles Unified School District schools, but will instead be sent to counseling and other services.
“This is another of many policy shifts intended to decriminalize student behavior, when possible, and to keep youth in school and out of the juvenile justice system,” Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement.
Tickets will no longer be issued for violations such as most campus fights, petty thefts, vandalism, trespassing or possession of tobacco or a small quantity of marijuana. Instead, those citations will be replaced with referrals to school administrators or FamilySource centers for intervention, problem solving and support.
District officials believe the new policy will be better than arresting students and issuing citations – punishments that often oust students from schools.
“Just one arrest doubles a young person’s chance of dropping out of school,” Ruth Cusick of Public Counsel said.
Arrests, suspensions and expulsions will still occur, depending on the severity of the offense, LAUSD officials said. There are exceptions to the new policy:
- If one of the combatants or victims has an injury requiring medical treatment
- Officers need to use reportable force to break up a fight
- One or more combatants has a history of disturbing the peace or battery citation; and/or arrest; or has failed to complete a prior diversion for the same offense
- The subject has a warrant or the victim demands an arrest
All marijuana violations will also include the assistance of school police for purposes of contraband recovery.
Students aren’t as optimistic as the district is about the new policy.
“I don’t think thats going to change anything. If you don’t want help, then you’re not going to be so open to help being forced on you,” Manual Arts High School senior Unique Cray said.
The district says they have previously had success with softening its disciplinary policy, including a sharp decline in suspensions, a reduction in student arrests, as well as using a diversion program instead of most truancy citations.
School officials hope the new policy, which will apply to students ages 13 through 17, will lead to more students seeing it the whole way through.
“We are about graduation, not incarceration. We stand here today to say that zero tolerance in this country has lost its way,” Deasy said.