Making Black Lives Matter in Schools
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:
- “Why Security Measures Won’t Stop School Shootings,” Ed Week, Bryan Warnick, Ohio State University, Benjamin Johnson, Utah Valley University, and Sam Rocha, University of British Columbia.
- “Impacts of Metal Detector Use in Schools: Insights From 15 Years of Research,” Abigail Hankin, American School Health Association.
- “Reproducing Social Inequality Through School Security,” Aaron Kupchik, University of Delaware and Geoff Ward, University of California at Irvine.
- “Research on School Security: The Impact of Security Measures on Students,” National Association of School Psychologists.
- “Student Surveillance, Racial Inequalities, and Implicit Racial Bias,”Jason Nance, University of Florida.
- “When Schools Feel Like Prison,” The Atlantic, Melinda Anderson.
The forum was co-sponsored by youth organizations such as Students Deserve, Black Lives Matter, ACLU, Public Counsel, and UTLA.
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.
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.
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.
Flyers, Newsletters, Facts, School-to-Prison pipeline
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.
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.