Imagine Police-Free Schools With the Supports Students Deserve

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UTLA BOD Statement

Dear UTLA Member, 

As millions of people across the country and around the world march in protest against anti-Black racism and police violence we have a historic opportunity to address racist systems and policies that have pervaded our society and our schools for the entire history of the United States.

As educators in a school system that serves 88% students of color and more Black students than any other school system in the state we have a clear view of how racism infects every element of our society.

We know that the massive underfunding of our schools is directly connected to the racist resistance of many in our state to pay for the education of Black and Brown students.

UTLA has a history of standing with those fighting for racial justice and supporting students who are leading in the movement.

The common good demands of our last contract campaign — against “random” searches, for immigrant support, for green space, for housing — were all understood as part of a racial justice struggle and helped unite the community behind us.

In April the UTLA Board of Directors and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to support BLMLA’s Black Los Angeles Demands in Light of Covid-19, which includes a call to defund the police and redirect resources to community needs.

For years UTLA has been working with organizations such as Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Students Deserve and Reclaim our Schools LA and other organizations to address racism in school discipline policies. We used research from institutions such as Harvard, Columbia, UCLA and the ACLU to inform our work to rethink policing in schools, which to date has included stopping ticketing of students for tardiness, ending random searches and eliminating tanks from the LASPD weapons arsenal.

LAUSD has the largest school police force in the United States and even though only 8% of the LAUSD students are Black those students account for 25% of all LAUSD School Police arrests.

Shockingly, 25% of LAUSD School Police arrests are of elementary and middle school students.

Behaviors that should be addressed within the school community are instead outsourced to police — particularly when Black students are involved — and such infractions create a record that follows a young person and limits their opportunities, directly contributing to the school to prison pipeline.

The use of random searches, pepper spray and other aggressive tactics criminalize and have long lasting impacts on our students. They make kids feel unsafe.

As the Board of Directors of UTLA, an ethnically and racially diverse body, we believe that we do not need armed police roaming our halls, we need counselors who are provided with resources, nurses with sufficient medical supplies, and librarians with enough books. That is why we voted to call for the elimination of the LAUSD school police budget and redirect resources to student needs, with a particular focus on the needs of Black students.

We believe that the school police as a body must be eliminated. We believe that school police staff can train to do new jobs outside policing to support students, if they so choose. This is not about the police as people, this is about policing as an inappropriate institution in our schools. Police must be removed from our schools.

While it may be challenging, we are asking all educators to imagine a school community where instead of calling the school police over a fight between children, a mental health professional who arrives within minutes is called. Imagine a school community where behavioral issues are addressed by giving the student material and emotional support both inside and outside of the school.

This is our responsibility as educators in this historic moment.

We look forward to talking with you more about how to build the type of school communities our students need.

UTLA Officers and Board

Link: Letter and signees