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How Will LAUSD Cut The School Police Budget? We'll Have To Wait Another Month To Find Out

FILE PHOTO: LAUSD school police outside Mark Twain Middle School in Los Angeles. (Brian Watt / KPCC)
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More than five months ago, the L.A. Unified School District Board of Education narrowly approved a $25 million cut from the Los Angeles School Police Department's budget, with no details on how to actually implement it and how to redirect the money.

Superitendent Austin Beutner was scheduled to discuss it as part of his regular update to the Board at today's meeting, but he struck it from his agenda "to allow time for more engagement with stakeholders."

The Board agreed to table the discussion until January 12, but several board members said they were disappointed that the work hasn't been wrapped up yet.

"In the same six months we have lost Dijon Kizzee, Kevin Carr, Fred Williams, other Black and Latino men in our community, and our children see this every day," said newly sworn-in board member Tanya Ortiz-Franklin. "As the school district serving over 600,000 kids, we can no longer drag our feet."

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Both supporters and critics of the budget reduction have given public comment again and again over the last several months, but the board itself has only discussed the cut publicly a handful of times. Documents posted ahead of today's meeting included recommendations for cutting more than $10 million in officer overtime and $14 million in salaries.

In a report that will be presented to the board, the district’s divisions of School Culture, Climate and Safety, and Instruction note that this cut -- which represents about 35% of the school police budget -- will impact jobs, although the effect could be lessened because of staff departures.

Thirty-seven members of the school police department -- including the chief of school police -- left the department between the time the cut was passed in June and September, then-interim chief Leslie Ramirez told the board. Ramirez was named the chief of school police last week.

As for the reinvestment of these funds, district administrators will recommend dedicating $4 million to supporting Black students academically, plus $1 million to student leadership and mentoring opportunities, and $8.3 million to “remove barriers to success” by funding guidance counselors and psychiatric social workers, and using restorative justice as a way of reducing suspensions. All of these were key parts of students organizers’ demands over the summer.

The remaining $11.7 million would be used to “recruit and develop on-campus safety personnel" who would keep an eye on the students, staff and campuses instead of police.

In addition to the cuts and reinvestments, the board on Tuesday will also consider “limiting” school police's ability to use oleoresin capsicum spray -- also known as pepper spray -- according to the board documents.

According to a 2020 LASPD Policy Manual, uniformed school police officers carry the spray and can use it “as self defense, as a method of defending others from the unlawful use of force of violence, and in some cases, as a method for compliance.” A LAUSD spokesperson told LAist in June that pepper spray was used at schools six times in 2019. In June, Superintendent Austin Beutner told the school community in a video update that he would recommend “eliminating” the use of pepper spray.

In response to the stay-at-home order, the district is not allowing anyone to provide public comment in person at Tuesday’s meeting. Instead, speakers intending to address the board will have to sign up online and provide their comments over the phone.

You can read the full report for the board below:

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