UTLA overwhelmingly passes motion to divest from school police and invest in students

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LOS ANGELES — After a robust debate, the UTLA House of Representatives passed a motion Thursday night calling for the elimination of the LAUSD school police and to redirect funding to mental health and counseling for our students. The final vote was 154-56.

“The concept of police-free schools is not new,” UTLA President-elect Cecily Myart-Cruz said. “Students and parents have been speaking their truth for many years, oftentimes going unheard. Police presence in schools leads to negative outcomes for Black and Brown students, who are arrested and disciplined at higher rates than their peers. This is the height of criminalization of our youth and it leads them directly into the school-to-prison pipeline. We are in a moment when we can stand with our students and be a catalyst for change.”

Los Angeles is in a historic moment of reckoning about the institutional racism in every structure of society — including our schools — and the urgent need to re-envision policing to protect Black lives. Working to be anti-racist educators means we must actively break down systems, structures, programs and policies of institutional racism. 

Tonight’s vote means that UTLA officially supports police-free schools. Any changes to the current school police policy happens with a vote by the LAUSD School Board. In passing this motion, UTLA is saying that we must break the cycle that has allowed increased police presence in schools of color, especially significantly Black schools, while academic and social-emotional supports are cut. Read the full House motion here.

UTLA is part of a national movement to eliminate police from our schools. Other school districts have recently voted to eliminate police on school campuses, including San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, Denver, Portland, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Charlottesville, and many others are in the process of considering a similar move. Locally, an unprecedented youth movement — led by Black Lives Matter-LA and Students Deserve — is driving the broad coalition to defund the LA School Police Department. That coalition includes students, parents, teachers, community organizations, and labor allies, including SEIU Local 99, the second-largest labor union in LAUSD. 
 
“Our schools do not need police officers—they need counseling, mental health programs, fully funded services,” East Area Board member Adrian Tamayo said. “We need to stop the punitive treatment and change this system to make our schools inviting, welcoming, and nurturing so that all students —not just some—feel safe.”

Research shows that the presence of school police impacts graduation rates, does not make schools safer, and negatively impacts student learning (research links posted here). Behaviors that should be addressed within the school community are instead outsourced to police, and such infractions create a record that follows a young person and limits the scope of their opportunities. LAUSD currently has the largest school police force in the United States, and even though only 8% of the LAUSD population is Black, Black students account for 25% of all LAUSD School Police arrests, and 25% of LAUSD School Police arrests are of elementary and middle school students.

The House vote follows a 35-2 vote by the UTLA Board of Directors on the same motion on June 2.

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