October 20, 2016
City News Service
Many California school districts offer their staff little or no guidance on when police should be called to control student behavior, according to a new American Civil Liberties Union study.
The report, released this week, analyzed law enforcement policies of 119 California school districts, including 50 of its most populous, the Los Angeles Times reported this morning. It found that more than half of the districts gave their staff broad discretion to summon police officers for small infractions, bullying and disrupting lessons.
After the police are called in, many districts do little to shield their students from potential consequences, the study found, according to the newspaper. Of those analyzed, about 98 percent don't require parental notification before a student is interviewed by police, and about 99 percent don't mandate that officers advise students who haven't yet been arrested of their constitutional rights.
The result, according to the study's authors, is that school administrators often outsource what used to be routine, in-school discipline to police officers, with disproportionately harsh results for poor, minority and disabled students, who are more likely to be arrested than their peers.
Too often, school staff call the police to have them handle a situation that makes a student end up having to go to court or get a fine, according to the study.
The worst offenders are said to be the 33 percent of school districts that require staff to report low-level offenses such as vandalism or graffiti to police. Although these may sound like well-defined criminal acts, in practice their meaning has been interpreted to include doodling on a desk or drawing one's name on a locker, the study said.
Model school districts include San Francisco, Oakland and Pasadena, which has an agreement with local law enforcement that forbids police officers from responding to calls of discipline problems and says school administrators are responsible for handling misbehavior.
Los Angeles Unified School District receives some kudos for its policy requiring police officers to have a warrant or court order before removing a student for questioning. But the ACLU report notes disapprovingly that the district continues to require school staff to screen middle and high school students randomly and daily, using a metal detector wand, The Times reported.