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June 18, 2019

Student, Educator, Activist, and Civil Liberties Groups Opposed the Searches

LOS ANGELES — In a landmark resolution today, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education voted to end the district’s mandatory, daily random searches of students.

The vote was a victory for the Students Not Suspects coalition that had long fought the policy that unfairly targeted and criminalized students. The random searches, which required staff to pull students out of classes to have their bodies and belongings examined with hand-held scanners, proved to be ineffective, as well as intrusive and excessive.

The resolution, which halts the random searches by July 1, 2020, does not prohibit searches for which there is reasonable suspicion a school rule or law has been violated, but prevents LAUSD from implementing other random searches or increasing law enforcement on school campuses.

The Students Not Suspects coalition includes the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, Public Counsel, Students Deserve, Youth Justice Coalition, Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, and United Teachers Los Angeles. The coalition will work with the district to formulate supportive policies that protect students effectively.

“We thank the board for standing with students to build safe and welcoming learning environments for all,” said Irene Rivera, education justice advocate and organizer with the ACLU SoCal. “We are pleased that this ineffective and discriminatory policy will be eliminated. We will begin working together immediately to build a vision of holistic school safety that respects students’ civil rights and civil liberties.”

The resolution to end random searches was supported by board President Mónica Garcia and board members Jackie Goldberg, Kelly Gonez, Nick Melvoin, and student board member Tyler Okeke.

Board President Mónica García stated: “It is our duty to represent the voices of our students and I am proud to stand with our youth who are calling on us to be braver and bolder when it comes to ensuring that our students are feeling safe and well in schools. Let’s continue this conversation to create the alternative where all partners are moving forward towards a resolution.”

The coalition will advocate for the district to invest meaningfully in programs such as restorative justice, positive behavior interventions, and peer mediations.

“We are happy to see that this resolution passed by the board prohibits random searches from being brought back in new policies,” said Amee Monroy, a student leader with the organizing group Students Deserve. “And we are excited to work with the district and community members to reallocate funding to provide support for students and promote real school safety."

Last year, Student Not Suspects released a report showing that only 0.08% of the random searches produced weapons, none of which were guns. The report also demonstrated that these searches did not deter students from bringing weapons, robbed students of at least 39,000 hours of classroom time each year, and cost the district approximately $1.12 million a year.

In addition, the coalition heard numerous reports that the supposedly random searches tended to target specific groups, particularly Black, Latino, or Muslim students.

“As a parent, I am glad that LAUSD will no longer use this policy to criminalize youth based on their race or socioeconomic status,” said Jan Williams, an organizer with Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles. “Schools should be welcoming safe havens for all of our kids, especially when Black children are disproportionately stopped and frisked by police outside of schools.”