June 22, 2020 / 10:16 PM / 12 days ago

Los Angeles school board to consider district police deptartment's future

(Reuters) - The Los Angeles board of education on Tuesday will consider a measure that would essentially phase out police in the nation’s second-largest school district under pressure from the teachers’ union and student advocacy groups.

The board, which oversees 600,000 students, will deliberate slashing the budget of the Los Angeles Schools Police Department (LASPD) by half in 2021, 75% the next year, 90% in 2023, and redistribute the funds to the neediest schools.

The board will take up a separate resolution to keep the force intact but review policing practices, its agenda showed.

U.S. school systems, including those in Chicago and New York, are facing pressure to remove police and school resource officers from campuses as part of a nationwide push for policing reforms following the killing of George Floyd.

“We cannot ignore the legitimate concerns and criticisms that students and other members of the school community have about all forms of law enforcement, including school police,” School Superintendent Austin Beutner said during his weekly address on Monday.

“It’s time to look at different approaches,” he added.

The board meeting agenda cites a 2018 UCLA study showing a quarter of LASPD’s detentions and citations involved blacks who represent less than 9% of the student population. It also cited a survey that found over 40% of youth experienced random police stops and interactions in their schools.

Activists say the police presence criminalizes students who would be better served if the $70-million policing budget provided more mental health counselors, nurses and behavioral counseling programs.

Defenders of the school police say they have special training to de-escalate tensions and protect campuses from outside threats, such as mass shootings.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; editing by Bill Tarrant and Richard Chang

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