Contact: Sean Thibault, 323-565-3268
May 25, 2016, LOS ANGELES – Today, an unusually diverse coalition sent a letter to LAUSD calling for an immediate moratorium on, and revision of, their random metal detection/search (wanding) policy that unfairly targets and criminalizes students.
The support of many diverse partners, including UTLA and the ACLU, alongside many community based organizations, educators, students, parents, and, advocates underscores why it is so important to revise this policy, for the sake of students across Los Angeles. This common ground represents an important touchstone for civil rights, public education, and school safety advocates in L.A.
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Board President Zimmer & Superintendent King,
At schools throughout the Los Angeles area, educators work to provide an excellent education to all students in safe and secure facilities. It is with them in mind that we request a meeting with you and Superintendent King to discuss safety policies that directly impede the ability of school leaders to cultivate the kind of school environments that are safe and secure for all students and staff.
Our most pressing concern is the need to revise or rescind the District’s random metal detector search policy that unfairly criminalizes students and undermines the trust built between educators, students and the community. We respectfully request a moratorium on the policy at all schools until we can collectively develop a revised policy that is approved by the District’s Board and prioritizes student safety, supports a positive school climate, and protects students’ dignity.
We know you share our aspiration for all students to have a learning environment where they feel not only safe, but respected and empowered. We believe a comprehensive approach to school safety is deeply embedded in the culture of a school and is supported by specific tools such as:
- curriculum and instructional materials on school safety, such as Safe & Civil Schools;
- restorative justice approaches to discipline, which build on trust and cooperation;
- layered approaches to behavioral and emotional supports, including low student-to-adult ratios, positive behavior intervention strategies, and trauma-informed practices;
- hiring appropriate support staff such as counselors and community intervention workers; and,
- community engagement efforts to promote safety, including establishing safe passages for students traveling to and from school on city streets.
We want to provide you with more background on this issue and demonstrate that schools are already ensuring safe learning environments for all students through a comprehensive, evidence-based, non-punitive approach. For example, many schools are employing restorative justice practices that prioritize repairing the harm caused by unacceptable behaviors, an approach that requires trust and cooperation among all. Additionally, by maintaining small school environments and low student-to-adult ratios, educators have been able to build trusting relationships with students that enable them to intervene, if necessary, long before any student’s safety on campus is jeopardized and without unnecessarily criminalizing our children.
As a strong advocate for restorative justice, you are well aware that a growing body of research is demonstrating the benefits of moving from zero-tolerance policies to ones that foster positive learning environments. Our concern is that so-called “random wanding” alienates students, discourages them from attending school, creates a negative environment that undermines trust and respect, runs counter to restorative justice practices, and effectively treats children as young as 10 years old as criminal suspects.
We know you share with us a strong commitment to eliminating barriers to positive student learning environments where students can fully succeed and take advantage of all the educational opportunities provided to them. Accordingly, we request the District immediately revise its random metal detector search policy. We look forward to discussing collaborative and mutually workable approaches to school safety with you and thank you for your continued leadership to support the students of Los Angeles.
Green Dot Public Schools
American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
United Teachers of Los Angeles
Youth Justice Coalition
Randy Sprick’s Safe & Civil Schools
Urban Peace Institute
Watts/Century Latino Organization
We Care Outreach Ministries
Students First CA
Teach for America
Endeavor College Prep
Citizens of the World Charter Schools
Educators 4 Excellence Los Angeles
Partnership for Los Angeles Schools
Parents Advocate League
Camino Nuevo Charter Academy
The Education Trust – West
Magnolia Public Schools
Inner-City Education Foundation (ICEF) Public Schools
Democrats for Education Reform California
Aspire Public Schools
KIPP LA Schools
Associacion de Maestros Unidos
Alliance College-Ready Public Schools
City Charter Schools
Future is Now USA
Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice
The California Conference for Equality and Justice
Dignity in Schools
Rev. James Jones, Watts
Dr. Azad Paul Kurkjian, Board Certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Bill Martinez, Fmr. Executive Director, Community Youth Gang Service