Racial Justice

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Making Black Lives Matter in Schools

Blacl Lives Matter button against LAUSD random searches. Sketches of two young ethnic kids rising arms with black sketches of groups of people in back in clusters with picket signs and mega phones.
The student-designed button for the BLM Feb. 24 event.

LOS ANGELES — On Saturday, February 24, over 600 students, parents, educators, and community members came together at LA Trade Tech for a youth-led forum. The two main purposes were to discuss alternatives to the LAUSD policy of random searches, and to build pressure on LAUSD to fund a Community Schools model, including an expansion of school psychologists, nurses, counselors, psychiatric social workers, and other social-emotional support personnel.  The student leaders of the forum placed themselves within the current national youth movement on school health and safety.
 
Students from across the city spoke to their experiences, and to academic research, which point to reasons for the LAUSD policy on random searches — only used by 4% of districts across the country —  to end:
 

  • The searches are ineffective and counter-productive.  Very few weapons are found.  School tensions and potential for disruption of school safety are increased, not decreased.
     
  • Students lose learning time because the searches occur during class.
     
  • Trusting relationships between students and educators are undermined, as the searches must be conducted by school staff.  When these relationships are undermined, the most effective way to find out about potential disruptions to school safety on campuses — students talking to educators — is undermined.
     
  • At many schools, the searches are not random.  They over-target Black and Muslim students, escalating tension, not decreasing it. Magnet school students and students in AP classes are not searched as often.  

The students framed their call for school health and safety through Community Schools and more staffing within a demand for more funding for schools – California is 46th out of 50 among the states in per-pupil funding, spends only $11,000 per student but $75,000 per prisoner, and has approximately one counselor per 950 students even though the American School Counselor Association recommends one per 250 students.

In the wake of the tragic school shooting in Florida, a growing body of research supports the idea that increased staffing, rather than an increase in practices such as random searches, are the best approach to enhancing school safety.  

A few of the most relevant studies include:

 
The forum was co-sponsored by youth organizations such as Students Deserve, Black Lives Matter, ACLU, Public Counsel, and UTLA.

BlackmLives Matter supporting organizations' logos.

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Standing with our students to end racism

End LAUSD Random Searches

Oct. 24, 2017 | #HERETOLEARN | #STUDENTSNOTSUSPECTS

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has a policy #BUL-5424.2 (Oct. 26, 2015, revises #BUL-5424.1) that requires staff at all of its schools serving grades 6-12 to conduct daily metal detector searches of students and their belongings for weapons, even if the students have done nothing wrong or if there are no safety concerns at the school. 

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Students Not Suspects Know Your Rights Flyer

School staff must stop classroom instruction when the searches are conducted, costing all students present valuable learning time. Students should be able to focus on their education.

 

Students Not Suspects Know Your Rights Flyer
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This policy contradicts existing LAUSD policies such as the School Climate Bill of Rights, and it is ineffective, intrusive and excessive. It allows for zero flexibility for educators and does not allow them to consider the unique needs of their students and campuses. The policy only serves to heighten tensions on campus and damage school morale.

Also, the district has oftentimes applied the policy in a discriminatory fashion, with the district searching students more frequently in schools that serve more low-income students and students of color and allowing its administrators to target particular students.

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RESOURCES

Flyers, Newsletters, Facts, School-to-Prison pipeline

Three stick people with hands in the air graphic

 

The Black Lives Matter Movement

We embrace our responsibility to provide a quality public education to all students. We know that our schools can be safe havens for our students. Most of our students are youth of color, and we know that unions have long been a part of movements challenging institutional racism. Read more in the newsletter below.

NEWSLETTER 1: The Importance of the Black Lives Matter Movement
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FAQs: Building the School to Prison Pipeline
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Black & White person with megaphone
2016 Black Lives Matter Forum

UTLA organized a first-of-its-kind forum at Dorsey HS in September 2016. Many students and educators feel school sites with a high African-American population are targeted more by police than other schools throughout the district.

A panel of high school students and leaders from Black Lives Matter discussed strategy on school policies and procedures, curriculum and instruction, building community schools and transforming the school system to support black students. 

Above, organized by UTLA, students and supporters of Black Lives Matter gather at a groundbreaking forum at Dorsey HS in September 2016.