Community Rights Campaign, Public Counsel, and the ACLU of Southern California applaud and fully support City Councilman Tony Cardenas’ motion to change the daytime curfew law that has proved to be detrimental to students and their families and a failure in preventing crime.
The current daytime curfew law is ineffective, wasteful and unfairly targets students of color. According to Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles School Police statistics, officers issued more than 47,000 tickets between 2005 through 2009 with 88 percent going to African American and Latino students. Students who receive curfew tickets must also miss school, sometimes two or three full school days, to attend court hearings, leading to the counterproductive outcome that students cited for being out of school must miss school to resolve the tickets.
Additionally, most of these children come from low-income families who are forced to make hard choices to not pay for the basics – like food for their family – to pay the hefty fines of $250 or more per ticket. The fines then accumulate and young people who later graduate are denied driver’s licenses and job opportunities because of outstanding warrants. Substantial research shows curfew laws do nothing to reduce crime by juveniles. On the contrary, students who get drawn into the juvenile justice system are four times more likely to drop out of school.
Cardenas’ motion opens a door of hope for students and families by eliminating the high fine, targeting resources at struggling students, and making common sense changes so that students who are trying to get to school, even if they are running late, are not penalized. There are many reasons why students are late or absent, including delays with public transportation, family problems, school struggles, illness, or even the need to walk a little brother or sister to school. With the proposed amendments by the Councilman, students who are trying to get to class and graduate will be given support to do so and not become another statistic lost in the juvenile justice system. We strongly urge the Los Angeles City Council to pass this motion.