School incidents spark debate over return of police to LAUSD campuses

Josh Haskell Image
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Is it time to bring police officers back to LAUSD campuses?
LAUSD is sticking by its policy of keeping police officers off campuses even after an apparent rise in violence and safety threats.

NORTHRIDGE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles Unified School District is sticking by its policy of keeping police officers off campuses even after an apparent rise in incidents of violence and safety threats at schools.

At Northridge Middle School earlier this month, two students were arrested on campus because they allegedly brought guns to school.

Reports of drug use and fights are up at some LAUSD campuses, along with suicide rates as students struggle with mental health issues following the pandemic.

"Someone bring a gun, another one go fight outside the school or sometimes they fight near the bathroom. That's really heavy. Really worried. I feel that's terrible and unsafe for the kids," said Marina Luna, whose granddaughter attends Northridge Middle School.

That has some calling for LAUSD school police to return to campuses.

But district Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says there are no plans to do that - even after some confusion last week when officers were sent to 20 schools which have seen what the district calls critical incidents.

"The presence of police officers on campus alone is no guarantee of absolute security for schools," Carvalho said.

"Every single mass shooting that has unfortunately impacted communities across America - most of those have happened when there was an officer on campus. It is very difficult to deter a determined, unstable individual with a weapon of mass destruction."

In 2020 following the George Floyd protests, LAUSD moved away from traditional school policing and the district's police budget was cut by 35%.

School board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin says there are currently two schools with officers on campus and 18 others seeing regular patrols, but LAUSD police mainly patrol the community, with a police officer within 3-7 minutes from all schools.

"As we came back, we did see a rise in student-to-student interactions that were unhealthy such as conflicts, fights, threats," Franklin said. "But we also see suicidal ideation as our number one incident and we're hardly talking about how we make schools safer in that respect. And I think that's where the drug use comes in. There's a lot of that self-medication and self-harm that we do need to talk about. So things are rising because of the social emotional health of our kids so we have to use our limited public education dollars to support those social emotional needs. In my mind, we shouldn't be using public education dollars on law enforcement."

Marina Luna's granddaughter attends Northridge Middle School and she thinks a return to school police officers on campus would help, but believes it's up to parents to stay on top of their child's behavior.

"A lot of parents, they don't care (about) the kids. They want to discharge the kids and (say) at school the teacher is responsible for the kids. But the teacher is not responsible. They come here for education," Luna said.