by Dick Price
As a follow-on research project to its celebrated Million Dollar Hoods project, a research team led by UCLA Professor Kelly-Lytle Hernandez has released its “Policing-Our-Students” report, which documents the disparate impact Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD) policing has on students of color.
Also led by Terry Allen, Isaac Bryan, and Andrew Teng, the Million Dollar Hoods team demonstrates that between 2014 and 2017, LASPD issued 24% of its arrests, citations, and diversions to black students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, even though those students represented less than 9% of the district’s total student population.
By contrast, Latinx students represented 74% of the student body and had 71% LASPD involvement, white students represented 10% of the student body and had 3% LASPD involvement, and “other” students represented 8% of the student body and had 2% of LASPD involvement.
“This racial disproportionately in contact with L.A. School Police disrupts opportunities to learn for black students,” says Terry Allen, a division lead and also a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA. “Contact with law enforcement can also impair mental health and well-being, induce trauma, erode trust in the criminal justice system, and negatively impact educational achievement, advancement, and subsequent attainment.”
“Positive conditions for learning and safety do not exist when Black students are disproportionately subject to contact with law enforcement,” Allen continues. “Schools must be wary that learning and safety are not comprised as they pursue approaches to reducing contact with law enforcement.”
The MDH team is an interdisciplinary group of scholars—many of them from the hardest hit communities—led by Lytle Hernandez, professor of History and African-American Studies and the Interim Director for the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. She secures the data, assembles the research team, and coordinates the project’s overall development.
The original “Million Dollar Hoods” report documented the Los Angeles neighborhoods where the arrested people lived, not where LA Police Department and LA County Sheriff’s Department made the arrests. “Perhaps not unexpectedly, the mapping project shows that some few neighborhoods—mostly heavily Black and Brown ones—account for huge percentages of L.A. County’s nearly billion-dollar jail budget,” Lytle Hernandez said.
To her delight, Lytle-Hernandez found that surrounding communities—Kern County, San Bernardino, and Santa Ana among them—asked for her team’s help in documenting the same kind of race-related arrest disparities Los Angeles exhibited.
That original report also spawned projects looking at the impact commercial bail bonds on LA’s African American and Latino communities, trends and disparities in Los Angeles Police Department arrests of houseless persons, LAPD’s disparate enforcement of cannabis-related offenses, and, now, disparate police impacts on LA’s school children.
This ongoing work is designed to get at the root causes for long-standing racial and racist disparities in the way Southland communities of color are policed, while providing data to policy makers, journalists, elected officials, and the public who might wish to reverse those trends.
The “Policing Our Students” report points to a different approach to school discipline and the use of police officers to enforce it.
“Instead of investing in school police, we must direct funding towards increasing school counselors and community-based resources that improve the conditions for learning and safety,” concludes Allen.
“Helping schools to change the way they approach discipline and safety will also help them encourage them to move away from correcting or fixing the behavior of students,” he says. “For example, many schools are failing our Black students by ignoring the underlying causes of their behavior.”