In a two year period, from 2009 through 2011, Los Angeles school police officers issued nearly 35,000 court citations to children. That’s an average of about 30 tickets a day. Officials are beginning to question the effectiveness of such citations and whether or not there are more promising alternatives.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, the school police and administrators have agreed to “rethink” enforcement tactics within the school system. What was once seen as a way to catch kids going down the wrong path and scare them into acting right, is now recognized as counterproductive.
Kids who are introduced to the criminal justice system are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to revisit the criminal justice system in their adult lives. Evidence of this exists in school districts where most tickets are doled out—they also have the highest dropout rates.
These citations are concentrated in districts with high Hispanic and African-American populations. Just last year the district had to take a hard look at their disproportionate suspension rates of African-American students after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Now, perhaps, a strong look at citations is in order.
These citations, particularly for the younger children, are most frequently handed out for charges like disorderly conduct—which can include fighting or becoming unmanageable. The child is cited to court where they may be fined or required to serve community service. In more serious cases, the charges can be criminal.
Children as young as 7 and 8 years old are being summoned to court and evidence shows that districts with high police involvement have low parental involvement, perhaps not surprisingly.
“LASPD is committed to reviewing the data and analyzing incident types in which alternative strategies can be feasibly developed, especially in areas such as truancy,” said a spokesperson for the school police.
What would have brought detention or even suspension in the past now brings criminal charges. Crossing guards have been replaced with cops and kids don’t just hang their coat on a hook when they walk into school, they have to go through metal detectors first.
All of this is evidence of the time we live in and evidence that any child could get caught up in the criminal justice system for even a minor violation.
If your child has received a summons or if they have been arrested, we might be able to help. The California Juvenile Justice system can be a frightening place for kids and parents alike. Contact our offices today for a consultation.