School board’s dismantling of ‘blue bridges’ between students and campus officers a tragic mistake (Op-ed)

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This editorial is brought to you by William J. Etue, an LAUSD police officer for 15 years and Vice President of the 500-member Los Angeles School Police Officers Association.

LOS ANGELES, CA — The  Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board’s recent vote to slash its school police budget by 36 percent was a rush to political judgment that other school districts would be wise to avoid.

The immediate fallout at LAUSD was bad enough. The School Police Chief quit, and now the department faces what he called the “detrimental and potentially life-threatening” layoffs of 65 campus officers.

But the real tragedy will be the loss of the trust and relationships those officers painstakingly earned over the years – ironically, the same kind of relationships defund police activists say they want to substitute for men and women in blue.

In doing so, the LAUSD Board has turned its back on the district’s massive investment over the years in special training and school-based programs that have made its school police a national model.

These soft skills have helped create strong bonds with students, parents, teachers and administrators. And they are paying off.

Since 2017-2018, school police have answered 360,000 calls for service – including hundreds of assaults, robberies and campus lockdowns. Mass shooting threats have more than doubled, from 75 to 155.

Yet officers have kept the peace without firing a single bullet or applying one chokehold.

The LAUSD Board glossed over these remarkable facts, lunging ahead with the cuts based on complaints that the occasional use of pepper spray on campus to break up fights “criminalizes” students.

That’s a huge stretch, considering LAUSD officers used pepper spray only 13 times involving students since 2017 – an infinitesimal .004 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, a recent LAUSD internal survey shows that rather than feeling traumatized by the presence of police, 90 percent of students report feeling safe in class – safer, many added, than in their own neighborhoods.

These laudable results are no accident.

They come from what school police call “building blue bridges” to the impressionable population it protects and defends.

It starts with training.

While California requires 40 hours of special training for school police, LAUSD has doubled down — requiring another 40 hours on topics like understanding the teen brain and cyber bullying.

Armed with these soft skills, officers integrate themselves into campus life as informal mentors and peacemakers, first and foremost.

They participate in study sessions with at-risk youth, sponsor after-school football and wrestling clubs and give anti-gang lectures.

These activities allow officers to learn which students are troubled, hear of abuse at home and be in a position to stop crime before it happens. Case in point: tips from students and staff have led to the confiscation of about 30 firearms per year.

Of course, there are times officers need to enforce the law.

But contrary to claims of racial profiling, they do not target any specific group. Eight times out of 10, they are called in after the fact, when a principal has already pulled a student out of class for disruptive or dangerous behavior.

And school officers are not eager to lock kids up when enforcement is warranted.

Since 2014, LAUSD police have teamed with Los Angeles County officials to create a diversion program that sends campus offenders to a social worker instead of jail.

The result: campus arrests have plummeted 92 percent. Hundreds of students have been given second, even third chances, without the stigma of a criminal record.

Here’s another number few people know: 57.

That’s how many times a school officer has been commended for saving a life, whether it is convincing a suicidal student not to jump from a school roof or tackling an ex-boyfriend who was dragging a female student off campus in a headlock.

Campus police were in a position to act quickly because they were already on the scene and tuned into the school community.

Now because of the LAUSD Board’s precipitous vote, the district stands to lose many of its best ambassadors. Its bridge-building programs must be scrapped.

The sad irony is that, in the name of defunding police, LAUSD Board members are decimating the very programs they say they want and need – all because they come with a blue uniform and a badge.

And the damage done to school safety as a result will not only be a shame, it serves as a cautionary tale for any other school district tempted to make the same hasty mistake.

Los Angeles teachers union demands defunding the police to make up for their failure to educate children (Op-ed)

LOS ANGELES, CA.- “Defund the police!”

That is the demand of the mob, seeking to remove the only obstacle to a total and complete takeover of the United States by those who seek to destroy the American way of life and turn the country into a socialist utopia.

On the forefront of that assault are some educators. You want to talk about defunding a public entity? Maybe it’s time we talk about defunding education. And by education, we mean public education, also including public universities and private “non-profit” institutions which are doing a great job of indoctrinating our kids in Marxist ideology.

In Los Angeles, the teacher’s union has thrown down with the mob, demanding…not asking, demanding…that police be defunded before they will go back and DO THEIR JOBS!

The Washington Examiner reported last month that the Los Angeles Teachers Union has demanded, through a “research paper” that schools in the district should not be reopened unless there are certain policies put in place, which ranges from mandatory face masks to a “moratorium” on charter schools and the defunding of police.

 

Why target charter schools? Well it’s probably because they have proven to be more successful at educating our kids than public schools. Recall that in Washington, D.C., there was a remarkably successful school voucher program, which allowed students in the nation’s capital to attend private school through a program called the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program.

According to the Department of Education, the program was an overwhelming success, with participating students “performing at statistically higher levels in reading—equivalent to 3.1 months of additional learning,” the evaluation said.

So why then did then-President Obama end the program? Teachers unions. In fact, even Fox News’ Juan Williams, a liberal by any definition, railed against Obama’s decision at the time.

In a column, Williams wrote:

“The cause of my upset is watching the key civil rights issue of this generation—improving big city public school education—get tossed overboard by political gamesmanship.”

“If there is one goal that deserves to be held above day-to-day partisanship and pettiness of ordinary politics it is the effort to end the scandalous poor level of academic achievement and abysmally high drop-out rates for America’s black and Hispanic students.”

Williams continued:

“The political pressure will be coming exclusively from the teacher’s unions who oppose the vouchers, just as they oppose No Child Left Behind and charter schools and every other effort at reforming public schools that continue to fail the nation’s most vulnerable young people, low income blacks and Hispanics.”

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It is understandable why the teacher’s union would want to target charter schools. After all, a report last December in the Los Angeles Times showed that only half of California students meet English standards, with less meeting proficiency in math.

While proficiency rates rose between 2018 and 2019 by a whopping 1%, when nearly half of California students can’t read and write to standards and only 39.7% are proficient in math, it’s clear that public schools in California are an abject failure.

You want to talk about black lives matter? The numbers are even more abysmal among African American students.

In Los Angeles, where teachers are clearly failing, the L.A. Unified School District showed that overall proficiency rates in English in October 2018 was 42.31% in English with math an abysmal 31.62%. Of course, at the time the Superintendent of the district, Austin Beutner was ecstatic about such “tremendous” results.

At the time, Beutner said:

“We thank our educators who have worked hard to help students learn. We have more work to do, especially with our African American, Latino and low-income students.

Our magnet schools continue to show higher rates of English and math proficiency, and we need to make sure all Los Angeles Unified students get the great education they deserve.”

Experts of course say that they just need more money. Last year, the LA Unified School District’s budget was $7.8 billion dollars. However, the district was threatened with a takeover by the county due to “shaky finances.”

In fact, parents last year blasted the district, accusing L.A. Unified District officials and principals of a lack of transparency in the budget process, with some saying that “district services for English learners and special education students [were] ‘an embarrassment.’”

More money…that’s what they need!

That doesn’t matter to teachers in the district, however. They feel that throwing more money at the district will somehow improve their failure to properly educate children.

These are teachers, by the way, who according to LA School Report,  get one of the most generous healthcare benefits packages in the state, and consume $2,300 per child in the district to fund, as of October 2018.

That amounts to 14% of the $16,000 per student the district received annually per student.

To add to the madness, teachers receive lifetime benefits, with all active and retired employees—and their dependents—receiving full health care coverage including dental, vision and other benefits with NO premiums or co-payments.

Imagine if each teacher contributed only 5% of their healthcare costs how much money could be diverted to the students?

But they want to steal money from the police. For the “kids” of course.

ABC-7 in Los Angeles is reporting the United Teachers Los Angeles is on board with the whole “defund the police” thing. They are seeking to eliminate the Los Angeles School Police Department. The agency, which has 400 members, serves the Los Angeles Unified School District, and accounts for less than 1% of the District’s budget.

ABC 7 said that according to a U.S. Department of Education report from 2018, 50 schools in the district have at least one police officer, but no counselor. They also note that over 100 schools have a police officer, but were lacking at least one of a counselor, a nurse, a psychologist, or a social worker.

The teacher’s union board is reported to have held a vote last month to conduct a vote by the union body on whether they should push the school board to remove funds from school police officers to other things such as mental health support or academic counselors.

However, the LA Unified School District, at least for now, has decided to maintain the department fully intact, although they left the door open to reform at some point down the road.

The district defeated two motions—one which would have cut funding to the department by 90% by 2024, and another would have immediately cut 30% from the department and would have left the door open to a complete elimination of the department.

“I’m just trying not to have us make a mistake and take something away that we shouldn’t We should wait to take it away if a study tells us we have too many police,’ said George McKenna, a former principal who opposed any reductions to the school police without first having an analysis conducted.

McKenna was joined by two other former principals who were in opposition to cutting the department without anything to back it up, other than emotion.

“We’re caught up in the emotion of the moment in America. And I got it. I get it better than most,” said McKenna, the only African American school board member.

Had Los Angeles voted to remove police from schools, they would have joined three California school districts in doing so—Oakland, San Francisco, and West Contra Costa County—where they are either in the process of removing police from schools or have already voted to do so.

It is clear that throwing more money at school districts, particularly in Los Angeles, isn’t the solution, as long as teachers refuse to carry their end of the bargain.

If they cared so much about the students and not lining their  pockets with cash and outrageously generous benefits, they would help contribute to the cause instead of joining the “defund the police” circus.

It’s easy to screw other people for your own benefit and to cover up your own shortcomings.


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