The Los Angeles Unified School Board unanimously approved a plan on Tuesday to cut one-third of its school police force and divert millions in funding towards the hire of social workers, restorative justice advisors, and “climate coaches.”
The move will result in 133 positions being removed from the Los Angeles School Police Department — including 70 sworn officers, 62 non-sworn officers, and one support staff member, leaving the department with a total of 211 officers, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The “climate coaches” set to replace police officers in secondary schools will be members from the community who, according to the Times, “will work to promote positive school culture and address implicit bias.”
According to the LAist, police will no longer patrol school campuses, but will only be called to respond during emergencies.
The union representing school police blasted the move in a statement Wednesday, warning the board’s decision “will place our children and staff in harm’s way.”
The decision followed months of protesting by community activists who called on the board to completely defund the school’s police force. Critics claimed that the police presence had a disproportionately negative effect on the district’s black and latino students.
During the protests, the student advocacy group, “Students Deserve,” proposed the idea of a climate coach position as a way to prevent violence on the campuses without the use of force.
The group’s director, Joseph Williams, told the LAist: “We don’t need police and handcuffs. I speak from personal experience as somebody who was criminalized at 13 years old and spent time in a juvenile detention center and was charged with assault and battery for getting in a fight with another kid.”
According to Williams, the coaches will prevent fights on campus by forging friendships with students and understanding the social environment.
“Student safety is everyone’s responsibility and starts with creating a school environment that is centered in students’ social-emotional wellbeing,” LAUSD Board President Kelly Gonez said in a press release announcing the plan’s approval. “The Board’s investment in the Black Student Achievement Plan ensures we are actively working to promote equity across the District.”
“I believe that today we are taking an important step in the right direction to provide Black students with vital investments in their success — with millions of dollars going toward academic support, social-emotional resources, and a new approach to school climate and safety,” added board member, Nick Melvoin. “This student and community driven action was long overdue, and we will continue working toward our District’s goal of providing every child with the opportunity to succeed and meeting the unique needs of our local school communities.”