The twelve year old LAUSD weapons search policy is up for review before the school board today.
In 2005 the Los Angeles Unified School District adopted a policy of daily weapons searches of students picked at random. The searches are mandatory at all middle and high schools in the LAUSD. Students are picked at random and pulled out of classrooms where they undergo a wand detector search. Their personal belongings and lockers are searched as well. The LAUSD policy requires schools to search ten lockers a day and thus, ten students.
Today, the LA school board is meeting to discuss the issue of these searches. In recent years, students, parents and school activists have taken an increasingly oppositional stance to the searches. The schools themselves also demonstrate some resistance to the LAUSD policy. A 2017 review of compliance with the search policy found that ten percent of schools are non-compliant; the same percentage as was found in a 2014 audit. The report also found that thirty percent of schools in 2017 were not doing daily locker searches, compared to seven percent in 2014.
Charter schools and teacher unions are even coming together to oppose the search policy. According to the LA School Report about a dozen charter groups and UTLA joined with the ACLU and other civic groups to sign a letter a year ago asking the district to end the searches because the practice “unfairly criminalizes students and undermines the trust built between educators, students, and the community.”
Students themselves are involved in opposing the search policy through the student lead group, Schools L.A. Students Deserve. Students Deserve describes itself as a grassroots coalition of member-leaders working for justice in and beyond schools. Their members are made up of students, parents, teachers and family members. Students Deserve wants to put an end to “random searches, policing, charter school expansion, reconstitutions and all other practices that treat students, families, and teachers like problems, criminals, and undesirables.”
Grace Hamilton, a high school senior and member of Students Deserve claims in a LA Schools Report that random searches are not random. She says she meets with students at other LAUSD schools and together they have determined that schools with students of color face more searches. At her own high school, John Marshall Senior High, she claims she doesn’t get searched in her honors classes but she has been searched in her regular classes.
Ms. Hamilton adds, “the only purpose these ‘random’ searches serve is to criminalize, traumatize, and degrade racial and ethnic groups in schools in my opinion and based on what I have observed in my work with Students Deserve.”
The LAUSD had promised to increase searches and compliance with their policy in the 2017 school year. Months later in August of 2017, the LAUSD pledged to reassess their policy. Less than four percent of schools nationwide conduct random metal detector searches. Opponents to the LAUSD policy say random searches decrease trust between students and teachers, and creates a culture that criminalizes the students. They also argue their is no proof the policies work and that schools nationwide have abandoned random searches.
Today, the random search policy is up for debate and Students Deserve is at the school board meeting to voice their protest. An update on the outcome of the school board meeting is to come.