For years, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has pulled middle and high school students out of class to conduct daily, metal detector searches. As numerous students have shared, school administrators walk into a classroom and pick out students at will, wand their bodies, and rummage through their belongings. Aside from losing valuable learning time, students undergo this humiliating procedure even if they have done nothing wrong.
Researchers from UCLA conducted a comprehensive study on LAUSD's mandatory metal detector search logs earlier this year, finding that the searches were frequent and not random, that they were far too intrusive and rarely uncovered any weapons. In fact, only 0.08% of 105,366 individual student searches conducted in 2013-14 and 2014-15 revealed a weapon of any sort — none of which were guns.
Earlier this month, the Blue Ribbon Panel on School Safety, created by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, found the practice ineffective and recommended the immediate suspension of these so-called "random searches" until an audit can be conducted. This comes after three years of grassroots efforts by #StudentsNotSuspects, a coalition of students, parents, educators, and advocates.
The Blue Ribbon Panel is the latest in a long line of third-party studies to confirm that the policy must be eliminated. As early as 1993, an ACLU of Southern California study concluded that LAUSD implemented its random search policy inconsistently, that certain students were targeted, and that the searches had no effect in deterring or uncovering weapons, particularly guns.
The Panel arrived at its recommendation after hearing “comments from some students, teachers, administrators, and parents urging an end to LAUSD's random search policy; as of the publication of this Report, more than 150 members of the public have called for a halt to the policy.” In fact, “at least one panelist believes suspending the policy pending an audit is inadequate — and that the policy should permanently end now, without any further evaluation.”
Still, the district has refused to halt the demeaning and discriminatory practice. Instead, LAUSD announced the creation of a flawed "pilot program," whereby 14 LAUSD schools will pull students out of class for 10 school days each month to search them. Meanwhile, the practice will remain in full force at all other schools, requiring that administrators pull students out of one class each day.
The Panel pushed back against LAUSD's pilot program, stating:
"the majority of this Panel believes that this pilot program does not go far enough. LAUSD's random metal detector search policy seriously risks eroding student trust — and thus their willingness to report real threats to adults — at schools throughout the District. Yet, no comprehensive evidence justifies this risk; rather, LAUSD's internal audits have shown the policy to be largely ineffective at recovering weapons."
Last week, the #StudentsNotSuspects coalition met with top LAUSD leadership — Superintendent Austin Beutner, Board President Mónica García, Board Vice President Nick Melvoin, the Director of LAUSD Operations, attorneys from the Office of General Counsel, and LA School Police Chief Steven Zipperman. During the meeting, student and parent leaders called on LAUSD leadership to end the random search policy or, at least, to adopt the Blue Ribbon Panel's recommendation to suspend the searches immediately.
And still, the district refused.
So now what? What will it take for the district to heed not only the voices of countless students impacted by searches but also the recommendations from the city attorney?
The coalition will continue to show up and call for an end to random searches. And we need your help to convince LAUSD leadership to do right by its students.
No more excuses. No more delays. No more studies. Our students deserve better.