UTLA Statement on LAUSD vote to defund school police budget by 35%

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Clarification: an earlier version of this story, it was written that LASPD was the largest police force in the country. In fact, LASPD is the largest independently run police force in the country.

The LAUSD School Board yesterday approved an immediate 35% cut to the LAUSD school police, after weeks of protests organized by Students Deserve and Black Lives Matter-LA that amplified the movement to eliminate school police. The cut equals a reduction of $25 million to the school police budget — the biggest reduction to school police in the country since George Floyd’s murder triggered a worldwide uprising against police violence and in support of Black Lives Matter. 

The news came the eve of July 1, when Cecily Myart-Cruz officially became UTLA president  – the first woman of color president in the union’s 50-year history.

“The school board’s action is a huge first step in the campaign for police-free schools and ground-breaking in terms of our movement for supporting Black lives in our schools,” said UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz. “It was the power and passion in the streets across LA and this country, uplifting the voices of Black students, educators and families that made this happen. We can’t let up. We must keep fighting for our babies and our students.”

Prior to the 4-3 vote, the LA School Police Department budget was $70 million, which paid for the largest independent school police force in the country. The money saved will fund staff to serve the needs of Black students and a task force to re-envision school safety. The board motion also calls for officers to give up their uniforms and patrol off campus until a district task force meets and issues a report, according to media reports.

The late-night school board vote on Tuesday followed powerful testimony by LAUSD students who detailed the academic and emotional fallout from the criminalization of students by the daily presence of law enforcement and the use of weapons like pepper spray on children. Their stories were bolstered by years of research that shows that the presence of school police lowers graduation rates, does not make schools safer, and negatively impacts student learning.

L.A. Unified now joins several other school systems, including in Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond, Denver, Portland, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Charlottesville, in moving to defund school police and remove armed officers from campus.

Last week, the policy-making body of UTLA, the House of Representatives, overwhelmingly endorsed a call to eliminate the LAUSD school police and shift funding to student needs — needs like counselors, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and pupil services and attendance counselors.

In advance of the school board vote, UTLA joined a coalition of organizations, including Black Lives Matter LA, ACLU of Southern California, California Association of School Counselors, CHIRLA, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Los Angeles, and California National Organization of Women in calling for a disinvestment from school police and an investment in students (letter attached).