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Teary mother ‘thanks God’ for LAUSD diversion program

Craig Clough | March 27, 2015

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Theresa Ponce and her son, Jesse Ramos, speak before the Successful School Climate Committee

Theresa Ponce and her son, Jesse Ramos, speak before the Successful School Climate Committee

The LA Unified School Board’s Successful School Climate Committee got an update on the district’s diversion program, not only with statistics but also with a student who said it had changed his life and his mother, who said she “thanks God” for it.

The program, which has been in effect since the beginning of the school year, is aimed at reducing the number of citations and arrests for low-level offenses, instead referring students to counseling. Aimed at reducing suspensions and expulsions, the diversion program is part of an overall “restorative justice” approach meant to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline.

Bell High School student Jesse Ramos told the committee that a random K-9 search at his school led to the discovery of a marijuana pipe in his backpack. Before this school year, it would have meant an arrest or citation, throwing him into the juvenile justice system. Instead, he was referred to a FamilySource Center that is partnering with LA Unified to provide counseling and resources to students referred to them by the Los Angeles School Police as part of the diversion program.

“My experience, it was a positive experience,” Ramos said. “It was a reality check for me. I had realized that I had done a mistake, and I had to face the consequences of my actions. Working with the FamilySource Center has allowed me to talk about my experience on a weekly basis. We talk about family, drug consequences, school, friendships, staying out of trouble and working toward success, respect and ultimately earning a high school diploma.”

Jesse’s mother, Theresa Ponce, also addressed the committee, and through tears said, “I thank God for this program. He’s made a big change. Just thank you.”

Ramos’ short speech was preceded by an update on the diversion program by Los Angeles School Police Chief Steven Zipperman, who said that this school year 405 students have been put into the program, 295 for citations and 110 for arrests.

Zipperman said that 198 had completed the program, 177 were in the intake and counseling phase and 30 had been referred to probation “for one reason or another that just did not allow us to continue with that process.”

Zipperman also said:

  • 50 percent of all diversions have been for marijuana
  • 27 percent were for battery
  • 11 percent were for vandalism
  • 5 percent were for possession of alcohol
  • 5 percent were for fighting.

Zipperman said the police force is working closely with the Family Source centers to get to the heart of what sends kids down the wrong path.

“When they come into some of the FamlySource Centers, what are the things that are causing our young people to get involved in these things in the first place, that perhaps if they had the early intervention they wouldn’t even have to go to a diversion in the first place,” Zipperman said. “So we are going to be taking a deeper look at what are some of the causal factors, not only with the school climate, but the family climate and the community climate. Because that all overlaps and it makes a difference.”

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