Violent crime has rattled Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) since the return to in-person classes in August as the district voted to slash the police budget amid the “defund the police” movement, according to an investigation conducted by CBS Los Angeles (CBS2).
LAUSD school board members voted in February to cut $25 million from the police budget, laying off 133 school police positions, including 70 officers, and maintaining only 211 officers. Per “defund the police” dictates, the school board decided to reallocate the funds to “hire counselors and social workers to try and prevent violence.”
But since students have returned to school, from August to October, there have been 108 assaults — 16 of which saw students hospitalized, according to the Associated Administrators of LA. There have also been 44 weapons confiscated, including five handguns and 32 knives.
CBS2 obtained several surveillance videos capturing the student violence, reporting one 15-year-old girl being knocked to the ground and assaulted by other students. The student’s mother, Brittany Jackson, says her daughter suffered a broken nose and a concussion.
Jackson says that “I don’t even feel safe sending them. I have to worry eight hours a day. Is my children going to make it back from school?”
Joseph Williams, a Black Lives Matter activist, told CBS2, however, that “Police on campuses have a hugely negative effect on students of color,” continuing to say that “There were fights in schools, there were incidents on school campuses when school police were still there. School police were not preventing, and in many cases they were escalating, and making some of these situations worse.”
But an LAUSD principal who spoke to CBS2 on the condition of anonymity vehemently disagreed with Williams’ sentiment, saying that police in schools are missed “tremendously” because of the “sense of safety” they provided. Commenting on their personal safety, the principal replied, “Constantly now. You think about it when you go to work, while you’re at work and going home. Is this worth it? They’re putting students, faculty, parents at risk.”
Zero LAUSD school board members agreed to answer questions about the effects of defunding the police, according to CBS2, and the district’s police chief, Leslie Ramirez, canceled several interviews. However, at the time of passing the motion to defund the police, board president Kelly Gonez said, “We would not be at this point, though it is delayed admittedly, without the community’s leadership,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
When confronted by the outlet in public, board member Nick Melvoin doubled down on defunding the police, saying, “We need to do a better job of providing non-police resources. We need to give schools different tools to reimagine public safety, so that our employees feel safe while our communities feel safe.”
Gilbert Gamez, president of the Los Angeles Police Association, said, however, that “Our officers have been told, correct, to stay off campus. … When they would go to campus, they were told by employees at the district that they need to leave or ‘what is your business here?'”
In a survey commissioned by the district asking about student and parental perceptions of police on campus, results showed a generally pro-police view. Among parents, broken down by race or ethnicity, 50 percent of black parents, 72 percent of Asian American and Pacific Islander parents, 67 percent of Latino parents, and 54 percent of white parents agreed that police on campus make schools safer.
Among students, broken down by the same groups, 35 percent, 56 percent, 54 percent, and 49 percent, respectively, believed police on campus made schools safer.