LAUSD Supt. Beutner to recommend ending use of pepper spray, policy allowing carotid hold at schools

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Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner on Monday announced changes to school policing and a hiring freeze for personnel who do not work at schools amid a budget crisis during the coronavirus pandemic.

Effective July 1, random wanding at schools will be eliminated and Beutner will be recommending that the School Board also eliminate the use of pepper spray and a policy allowing carotid holds on campuses.

The district has also created a task force to review the budget, policy and practice of school police, according to the superintendent.

The group will consist of community members and LAUSD staff who work in schools.

“They will listen to students, families, those who work in schools and all in the communities we
serve. They will look at what is needed to keep schools safe as well as what students need to feel free from stigma and feel they are a respected part of their school community,” Beutner explained during his weekly briefing.

The group will come up with “concrete recommendations” on school policing and will present their findings to the Board of Education for consideration.

“But these actions are just a part of the picture as Los Angeles Unified needs to look much deeper at all of the practices in schools of which school police are only one part,” Beutner said. “Our goal in this is not to make a political statement, it’s to do the best we can for students.”

The changes and announcement of the task force come during a national conversation about police brutality following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers.

Beutner said that a hiring freeze of non-school staff and a ban on travel or conference attendance is also in response to budget constraints. In addition, all purchases over $50,000 will need to be approved by the deputy superintendent of operations.

Beutner said that the focus needs to be on students.

“During the summer, we’ll be undertaking a bottoms-up look at every one of the departments in Los Angeles Unified to find savings and make sure every nickel is being spent to help students learn,” he said.

LAUSD will also be teaming up with the San Diego Unified School District as well as charter schools in Los Angeles and to purchase supplies and materials to protect students and staff from COVID-19, Beutner said.

“The collective buying power on behalf of about 800,000 public school students will allow us to get the best possible pricing,” he said.

Last week, Beutner announced that 26,000 students had graduated from district schools. To celebrate those students’ efforts, the district will hold a special event Monday evening with appearances by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senator Kamala Harris, Lil Jon, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts, TV producer Kenya Barris and Ellen DeGeneres.

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