LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner discusses task force on school policing

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Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner on Monday explained the goals of a new task force created to review the budget, policy and practice of school police amid a national conversation about brutality at the hands of law enforcement.

Beutner announced the task force last week and said he will be recommending that the School Board eliminate the use of pepper spray and a policy allowing carotid holds on campuses. Random wanding at schools will be eliminated on July 1.

“It’s time to look at different approaches,” Beutner said during his weekly address Monday.

He said he will be asking the task force to add experienced counselors to school campuses to mentor students and help deescalate incidents. Beutner added that LAUSD could shift 10% of its school police budget to try the initiative without “significant changes.”

Beutner explained that the Los Angeles School Police Department represents less than 1% of the district’s budget and there are about 400 people in the department.

They responded to more than 100,000 calls last year, including threats, and handled serious crimes.

He added that looking at changes in public safety in schools is complex given the opinion of stakeholders involved.

While leaders of the Los Angeles teachers union say they support the elimination of school police, union leaders representing other school staff disagree, Beutner said.

The task force will focus on understanding the role of police in schools, review training and policies of school police, look at safety efforts in other school districts, gather perspectives of students, staff and families and consider new approaches to school policing.

In addition, the task force will be making recommendations for the future of public safety on campuses.

“No person should feel the presence of a safety officer on a campus as an indictment of them or their character,” Beutner said Monday. “Students deserve to be heard on this topic and their views taken into account.”

The superintendent added that officials need to look beyond policing on campus to address “systemic bias and institutional racism in schools.”

He explained that while ethnic studies courses have been available since 2016, only a fraction of students eligible to take those classes are enrolled, and that civics courses give little mention to Juneteeth or the Greenwood Massacre in Tulsa.

“This moment cannot be about more words and false promises. It has to be about real change based on logic, reason, thoughtful analysis and genuine engagement with all of the stakeholders in the school community,” Beutner said. “Our goal in this should not be to make a political statement; rather, to make real change to provide the best possible learning environment for students.”

Beutner also discussed summer school, which starts on Wednesday, and how officials are getting ready for the new school year amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Aside from new interactive courses being offered in guitar and animation, Beutner also announced a new YouTube program called “A World of Learning” that will allow students and their families to access the Natural History and Getty museums.

During his briefing, Beutner also discuss cuts to the California state budget and how it would affect schools, but on Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom reached a deal with lawmakers that calls for protection of school funding.

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