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LA parents concerned over school safety as violence spikes around campuses

Jinge Li | June 5, 2024

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Emily Juarez no longer feels safe letting her two older children ride public transportation or walk to their LA Unified school after an increase in reports of violence near district campuses.

“I stopped maybe a couple of weeks ago,” Juarez said last month. “I see the stuff that’s happening. I do see the news and I see what happens on the bus and then around here as well. So I don’t feel it’s safe for them to go by themselves, walking or on the bus.”

Before the increasing reports of violence and drug abuse on LAUSD campuses, she would allow her two older children in 9th and 10th grade to regularly ride the bus to and from the 32nd Street School near University Park in East Los Angeles.

Juarez’s concerns were not out of the ordinary. In February, three separate shootings occurred overnight near a LA school campus, resulting in the deaths of two teenagers. Last month two teenagers were arrested for bringing guns to school. 

An LA Unified spokesperson declined to be interviewed, instead referring a reporter to recordings from the recent school board meeting where the issue was discussed during the Safe School Task Force annual update.

The presentation — delivered by Andres Chait, LAUSD Chief of School Operations — outlined 14 recommendations, including installing vape and weapons detection systems, developing and implementing peer counseling, and installing gates and security cameras in all schools. 

The increasing violence around the district has made some parents question whether LA Unified schools are safe —  and if the school board made the right decision to cut the School police budgets by 35% after the murder of George Floyd. 

“They cut it without really thinking through who it was going to impact and without inclusion of the parent voice,” said Evelyn Aleman, Founder of  “Our Voice” a parents group.” They had activists, because activists are able to mobilize and come to the school board meetings and ways that Latino and indigenous immigrant parents cannot…that’s a significant voice, which is 74% of the student population was left out of that conversation.”  

The funding was reallocated towards programs in schools with the highest number of Black students, including the hiring of more social workers, and counselors, targeting schools with high rates of suspension, chronic absenteeism and low academic student achievement.  The 74 previously did a story on the impact of the programs

Pedro Noguera, Dean of the USC Rossier School of Educations said while police presence can deter some incidents, more cops are not a long term solution. 

“Campus Police are most effective at deterring individuals who don’t belong on campus from coming on campus. If that’s an issue…, they should consider deploying police to schools,” said Noguera. “But if the issue is preventing fights, they need trusted adults who kids will talk to…  you just have to be really careful because once you bring the police into the picture you significantly increase the likelihood of arrest.”  

LAUSD school police carry guns and handcuffs and have the authority to make arrests, a district spokesman said.

LAUSD district 7 board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin, an advocate for restorative measures, believes the best way to keep students safe starts by teaching young children social-emotional skills to navigate conflict and  de-escalating potentially violent situations.

“I know that… (there is a) sort of myth or misconception that we swing from punitive to permissive.” Franklin said. “I’m not going to let kids run all over the place…we still have to keep our hands to ourselves, we still have to be safe and use our words. But I’m going to show you how to do that, teach you and give you a second chance.” 

For Aleman and other parents the progress is too slow. According to an LAUSD report published in September 2023, incidents of fighting and physical aggression increased by over 40% between the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. More than 600 fights and other physical aggression incidents were reported just 30 days into the 2023-24 school year.

“I think it’s wishful thinking, and it doesn’t address the urgency of the situation, which is safety,” Aleman said in response to the district’s restorative plan to ensure safe schools. “This requires an immediate response, and it’s not just the school police…—But from LAUSD, everybody has to step up…. This is unacceptable. Children should not be dying outside the school. That shouldn’t be happening.”

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