Rising Violence at LA Schools Raises Safety Concerns Among Parents

Emily Juarez no longer feels secure allowing her two older children to take public transportation or walk to their LA Unified school following a rise in violence reports near district campuses.

“I made that decision a couple of weeks ago,” Juarez stated last month. “I witness the incidents occurring. I keep up with the news and observe the occurrences on the bus as well as in this vicinity. Hence, I think it’s unsafe for them to commute independently, whether walking or on public transport.”

Prior to the surge in reports regarding violence and substance abuse at LAUSD campuses, she previously permitted her 9th and 10th-grade children to regularly commute via bus to and from the 32nd Street School near University Park in East Los Angeles.

Juarez’s worries were commonplace. In February, three separate shootings took place overnight in close proximity to a LA school campus, leading to the fatalities of two teenagers. Last month, two teens were apprehended for possessing firearms on school grounds.

Declining to provide an interview, an LA Unified spokesperson redirected a reporter to recordings from the recent school board meeting where the matter was deliberated during the Safe School Task Force’s annual update.

During the presentation by Andres Chait, LAUSD Chief of School Operations, 14 recommendations were put forth, which included the installation of vaping and weapons detectors, the development and implementation of peer counseling, and the installation of gates and security cameras in all schools.

The escalating violence around the district has induced some parents to ponder the safety of LA Unified schools—questioning whether the school board acted prudently in reducing the School police budgets by 35% subsequent to George Floyd’s homicide.

“They made that cut without thoroughly considering its repercussions and in the absence of parental input,” expressed Evelyn Aleman, Founder of “Our Voice”, a parent group. “They were inclusive of activists, as they can rally and attend school board meetings, a luxury that Latino and indigenous immigrant parents lack… This is a significant exclusion, neglecting 74% of the student population from the dialogue.”

The funds were redirected towards programs in schools with the highest Black student counts, including the recruitment of additional social workers and counselors, focusing on schools with elevated suspension rates, chronic absenteeism, and poor academic performance. A previously done story by the 74 shed light on the programs’ impact.

Pedro Noguera, Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, contended that while police presence may deter certain incidents, an increased police force is not a sustainable resolution.

“Campus Police primarily deter unauthorized individuals from accessing the campus. If that’s a concern…, the deployment of police to schools should be contemplated,” stated Noguera. “However, if the objective is to prevent altercations, then trusted adults who can engage with students are imperative… Caution must be exercised since involving the police significantly escalates the likelihood of arrests.”

LAUSD school police are equipped with firearms and handcuffs and possess the authority to make arrests, according to a district spokesman.

Tanya Ortiz Franklin, LAUSD district 7 board member and an advocate of restorative approaches, believes that ensuring student safety commences by teaching young children social-emotional competencies to resolve conflicts and avert potentially violent situations.

“I acknowledge that… there’s a prevailing notion or misinterpretation that we vacillate between punitive measures and leniency,” Franklin elucidated. “I won’t tolerate unruly behavior… we must continue to respect personal boundaries, prioritize safety, and communicate effectively. Yet, I will educate on the appropriate conduct, provide guidance, and offer second chances.”

For Aleman and other parents, progress is lagging. According to an LAUSD report from September 2023, instances of altercations and physical confrontations surged by over 40% between the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years. Just 30 days into the 2023-24 school year, over 600 fights and physical confrontations were reported.

“I consider it wishful thinking, which overlooks the pressing nature of the issue, which is safety,” Aleman remarked regarding the district’s restorative strategy for ensuring school safety. “An immediate response is imperative, not solely from the school police…—All of LAUSD must rally… This is unacceptable. Children shouldn’t perish outside educational premises. That’s intolerable.”

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