School Policing & Climate

Although the presence of police and armed security officers on school campuses is now fairly common in urban areas, it is a relatively recent trend.

As late as 1970, there were fewer than 100 police or ‘school resource officers’ on campuses nationwide (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2010). In Los Angeles County, few school districts have their own police departments, but they include LAUSD, which has the largest school police department in the world (Wolf, 2018). Recent efforts to shrink the role of LAUSD’s as adopted by the board will result in a smaller police presence. To provide clarity on the schools that were part of our study and the type of security that was in place, TABLE 2.1 shows that each had some type of campus security, school resource officers, video surveillance, or metal detectors across their school districts.

Every district in our selected sample has some form of police involvement on high school campuses. The vast majority have sworn law enforcement officers (SROs) assigned to high school campuses and have video surveillance of students on campus. Many school districts subject middle and high school students to random searches, and may have controlled entry to the campus that includes the use of metal detectors. The presence of police officers on campus is associated with an increase in student arrests for offenses that were not previously regarded as criminal (Gregory et al., 2010). The arrests and other involvement with school police in Los Angeles County has fallen especially hard on Black students. For example, a recent report analyzing 2014-2017 arrest, citation and diversion data, found that Black student enrollment is just 8% in LAUSD, but Black students account for 25% of serious interactions with school police. (Wolf, 2018; Edwards et al., 2020).

DistrictSafety Infrastructure
ABC Unified School DistrictSRO at selected schools; Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department partnership. School Intervention Assistant (1 at each middle school, 4 at each HS which patrol everyday and provide campus security); Surveillance System.
Antelope Valley Union High School DistrictEnhanced fencing; Security personnel; Surveillance cameras
Bellflower Unified School DistrictCampus Security
Centinela Valley Union High School DistrictSecurity Department; Surveillance System: Security Cameras; Metal Detector at Select High School; K-9 Services; Recordings may be referred to law enforcement.
Compton Unified School DistrictSchool Resource Officers (SRO) stationed at select high schools; Uniformed patrol services for entire district; Traffic officers/ Crossing guards; Campus Security Assistants at all school sites, Detective Bureau which investigates crime and prepares cases for prosecution
Culver City Unified School DistrictSecurity Department; SRO (Sworn Law Enforcement); Video Surveillance; Metal Detectors at Entrance(High School)
Inglewood Unified School DistrictCampus Security; Surveillance Systems; Random Search & Seizure
Long Beach Unified School DistrictCampus Security officers, school resource officers, and armed school safety officers; Security Cameras; School Safety Communications Center; School fencing
Los Angeles Unified School DistrictDistrict Police department; Random Searches; Video Surveillance; Metal Detectors at Selected High Schools and Middle Schools
Paramount Unified School DistrictCampus Security Officers; Security Cameras at select schools
Pasadena Unified School DistrictCampus Security; Pasadena Safe Schools Team (composed of members of the Pasadena Police Department). Police hired for large events
Pomona Unified School DistrictSchool Resource Officer (SRO) assigned to each campus
Torrance Unified School DistrictCampus Security; Surveillance System at all schools (Video and Audio); Close work with Torrance PD; Random search and seizure; District contraband dog detection program. Measure T 15 Million.
William S. Hart Union High School DistrictA School Resource Officer (SRO) is assigned to each campus (6 deputies shared between Junior High and High Schools; BARK system of reporting

Table 2.1 School Safety Summary by District1


Data on policing in LAUSD obtained from The Million Dollar Hoods Project: Allen, Terry, Bryan, Isaac, Guerero, Andrew, Teng, Alvin, and Lytle-Hernandez, Kelly (2018). “Policing Our Students: An Analysis of L.A. School Police Department Data (2014 – 2017).” Los Angeles, CA.

Suspensions and Expulsions

One of the most vexing issues that has plagued Black students for the last several decades has been excessive and disproportionate punishment and discipline in schools. Nationally, research shows that Black students are overrepresented among students who are suspended and expelled from school (Civil Rights Data Collection, 2016; U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2018; Wood et al., 2018). In our examination of the 14 school districts, we found a great deal of variation in suspension rates for both Black male and female students (See Figure 2.13). In Antelope Valley, Bellflower and Pasadena school districts, Black male students are suspended at rates far greater than the County average for Black male students (22%, 13% and 14%, respectively).

Figure 2.14 depicts suspension rates of Black female students in the 14 school districts we examined during the 2018-2019 school year. As was seen for boys, the same three school districts, Antelope Valley, Bellflower, and Pasadena, all have suspension rates for girls that are at least double the overall county rate for female students and far exceeding that observed for other girls within those school districts.

The data suggests that while the suspension rate of Black boys tend to be higher than that of Black girls, school districts with relatively high rates of suspensions for Black boys, are generally also school districts with high rates of suspensions for Black girls. Interestingly, Antelope Valley stands out as having high rates of Black suspensions for both boys and girls. While these data are not new, they continue to pose significant loss of learning for too many Black youth in the County and across the state of California. Immediate addressing and eradication of school suspension practices is needed.

Figure 2.13 Black Male Suspension Rate by District, 2018-2019
Suspension rate data were retrieved from DataQuest 2018-19 Suspension Rate, California Department of Education, 2019b.
Figure 2.14
Figure 2.14 Black Female Suspension Rate by District, 2018-2019
Suspension rate data were retrieved from DataQuest 2018-19 Suspension Rate, California Department of Education, 2019b.

Chronic Absenteeism

Like students who are suspended, those who are chronically absent, no matter the reason of their absence, have less access to instructional time. Black students in Los Angeles County exhibit the highest levels of chronic absence compared to their peers. Chronic absence is defined as missing more than 10% of the school year. In general, chronically absent students miss more than three weeks of school. Research shows that chronic absenteeism dramatically affects the academic achievement of students in all grade levels (Smerillo et al., 2018). Overall, 24% of Black students in Los Angeles County are chronically absent; this percentage is significantly higher than white students (11%), Asian students (4%), Hispanic students (15%), and the state and county averages (14%) reflected below in Figure 2.15.

Figure 2.15
Figure 2.15 Los Angeles County Chronic Absenteeism Rate by Race, 2018-2019
Los Angeles County Chronic Absenteeism Rates by Race were retrieved from DataQuest County Enrollment and filtered by “Ethnicity”, California Department of Education, 2019c.

As illustrated by figure 2.16, chronic absenteeism rates of Black students vary dramatically between school districts. Approximately a third of Black students in Antelope Valley and Centinela Valley school districts are absent three weeks or more of the school year. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Black student chronic absenteeism rates in Culver City; William S. Hart; and Torrance are much lower. Chronic absenteeism can vary, but our data suggests that economic based reasons are certainly at play that require deeper examination to explain significant loss of learning time for many students. Moreover, the impact of COVID-19 could lead to an even higher surge in chronic absenteeism for the most vulnerable student populations.

Figure 2.16
Figure 2.16 Black Student Chronic Absenteeism Rate by District, 2018-2019
Chronic Black Student Chronic Absenteeism Rate by District were retrieved from DataQuest County Enrollment and filtered by “Ethnicity”, California Department of Education, 2019c.

Notes

  1. School safety data were retrieved from multiple publicly available sources:
    ABC Unified School District data were retrieved from “ABC School Safety”, 2019
    Antelope Valley Union High School District data were retrieved from “School Safety”, 2019
    Bellflower Unified School District data were retrieved from “Bellflower High School boosts security threat after social media threat”, 2017 and “Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) Template”, 2018
    Centinela Valley Union High School District data were retrieved from “Security”, 2019
    Compton Unified School District data were retrieved from “Elevate Student Safety”, 2014
    Culver City Unified School Districtdata were retrieved from “CCUSD School Safety Information”, 2019
    Inglewood Unified School District data were retrieved from “Campus Security”, 2014
    Long Beach Unified School District were retrieved from “Long Beach Unified eliminates security positions, approves fencing and cameras”, 2018 and “About Measure K”, 2018
    Los Angeles Unified School District data were retrieved from, “Los Angeles School Police Department,” 2019x, and “Administrative Searches to Ensure School Safety,” 2015
    Paramount Unified School District data were retrieved from “Pasadena Unified Has No Contact With Police”, 2020x and “School Safety”, 2019
    Pasadena Unified School District data were retrieved from “Board of Education Meeting”, 2017
    Pomona Unified safety data were retrieved from “District Security Officer at Pomona Unified School District,” 2017
    Torrance Unified School District data were retrieved from “Torrance installs comprehensive security measures after school shootings nationwide”, 2018
    William S. Hart Unified safety data were retrieved from “Safety Planning Message from the Superintendent’s Office – William S. Hart Union High School District,” 2020