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Morning Brief: Pepper Spraying Kids, Diagnosing Dyslexia, Serena Williams Retires

Buildings viewed from above are laid out in aa modified triange, with the top right side angled. inside the rectangle is a grassy law. A pool of water is visible near the top middle.
An aerial view of Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall
(Courtesy Google Earth)
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Wednesday, August 10.

Did you hear Serena Williams is retiring? Of course, I shed some tears. Meet me at the bottom of this newsletter for more chit chat on the G.O.A.T.

But first, let’s talk about something that hasn’t left Los Angeles’ juvenile halls and camps, even though it was supposed to: pepper spray.

I talked to my colleague Emily Elena Dugdale about why L.A. probation officers are still spraying kids.

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Aaricka: Why hasn’t the Probation Department stopped spraying kids? 

“They [Probation Department officials] claim they didn’t get the appropriate funding from the Board of Supervisors to implement their phase-out plan. They are dealing with a lot of understaffing. Probation officers are calling in sick. Many are protesting what they say are unsafe working conditions. Their staff is stretched thin right now. They're saying that when they have less staff, they don't feel comfortable using their de-escalation training.” 

Aaricka: Why is this such an important story to cover? 

Emily: “The Board of Supervisors passed a motion to ban this spray in 2019. It’s still happening. When we looked at the data, we saw kids getting sprayed hundreds of times in roughly the last year. I think the question remains: why hasn't the county put more pressure on Probation to follow through with their plan? It seems like there hasn't been that oversight because it’s been three years from when they banned the spray. And they're still spraying.”

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Aaricka: How does this impact kids? 

Emily: I talked to a young person who had been previously incarcerated and he described the physical pain of being sprayed. He said it would get so bad he briefly wanted to claw out his eyes. When the spray spreads to the rest of the body, it can really hurt. it isn't uncommon for people to pass out from spray, so there's that physical aspect of it. Also, studies have shown this has left trauma on children. Multiple other counties in the state have gotten rid of pepper spray in their juvenile facilities. So, it's not like it can't be done.

Aaricka: What is the one thing you want people to take away from this story?

Emily: The question we all should be asking is, why? Why are kids still getting sprayed with a very harmful chemical?

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below the fold.

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What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go...L.A.'s Very Own Champ, Serena Williams, Hangs Up The Racket

Tennis player Serena Williams smiles with her tennis racket in one hand and a balled fist in the other.
Serena Williams, shown here in Australia in 2014, has announced that she is retiring from tennis after the U.S. Open.
((Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images))

Yep. You read that right. Serena is leaving the game, the only game she’s ever known and loved for good. It’s been a difficult decision for her, but she says, at almost 41, it’s time to focus on family and her business, Serena Ventures.

Looking back, I will never forget watching Venus and Serena on TV as a little Black girl in L.A. The two sisters were girls that looked like me with very Black hairstyles. Who could forget the moment that they rocked braids with their signature white beads in the ‘Got Milk?’ ads back in the 90s?

They are truly hometown heroes. Most of you know the story by now…how their father Richard Williams took them to hit balls at East Rancho Dominguez Park in Compton. That’s where my dad (who actually reminds me of King Richard) would take me to play.

They’ve returned, too, and given back to the community. There are tennis courts named after the Williams sisters and together they started the Yetunde Price Resource Center, in honor of their sister who was killed. 

I used to love watching the sisters smack that ball on the court. But Serena? My girl is something special. I mean this is a woman who has outlasted many of her rivals and has continuously stayed on top of her game. She IS the GOAT. This is a woman who’s dealt with consistent racism and body shaming. Yet she won the Australian Open while PREGNANT.

I can’t even talk about all of her accomplishments because it would take over this whole newsletter. But I will say this: Serena has 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the most of ANY player in the Open Era. Australia's Margaret Court, 80, is the only other player with more major singles titles, and Serena is just one title behind her.

In Serena’s farewell article in Vogue on Tuesday, she tells Rob Haskell that she’d be lying if she said she didn’t want that record.

“The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine.” 

As you probably already know, I will definitely be tuning in to watch my fellow Black Angeleno proudly dominate the courts for the last time.

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