In an attempt to reduce student arrest rates, suspensions and expulsions, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) formalized and issued a new disciplinary policy on Aug. 19. The policy that will be placed into effect during the 2014-15 school year states that minor violations of district and school rules will no longer lead to a “school-to-prison pipeline.”
“There are enough studies that show bringing them into the justice system is really more of a slippery slope that leads to negative outcomes and poor futures,” Los Angeles Juvenile Courts Judge Michael Nash said, according to the Los Angeles Times (LA Times).
As stated by the LAUSD website, students who are involved in affairs that do not pose a great risk to the community, including campus fights, thefts, vandalism of school property, trespassing and possession of tobacco or a small quantity of marijuana, will no longer be arrested or given citations by the Los Angeles School Police Department. Instead of being disciplined in the juvenile court system, most offenders will receive interventions by guidance counselors or school administrators.
“Effective discipline is, and always will be, a necessity,” Attorney General Eric Holder said, as stated by The United States Department of Justice. “But a routine school discipline infraction should land a student in a principal’s office — not in a police precinct.”
As mentioned by the LA Times, although the zero-tolerance policies ensured that students would take responsibility for their actions, its long-term negative impact for them became the main reason for the policy reform. The consequences included a decrease of the young adults’ likelihood of entering the higher education system, along with an increase of their contact with the juvenile and criminal justice system. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that schools with high student arrest rates tended to have below average graduation rates.
“I think the new policy will still have flaws, [but it] will effectively deal with students’ problems, instead of ‘shoving it under the rug,’” senior Derek Duong said.
Another possible reason for the implementation of the new policy is the progress achieved by previous reform. As stated by the New York Times, since 2012, LAUSD has successfully decreased its dropout rates and even raised the attendance rates by stopping the citation of students who are tardy for class.
“It is hard to [predict] how effective the new policy may be and difficult to say whether it can also apply to Alhambra Unified School District, since we already have policies in place. But there is one thing for sure, kids need to be in school to learn. There are lots of possible interventions [that can be performed] other than expulsions or suspensions,” Principal Duane Russell said.