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Los Angeles school district cuts 133 police officers, bans use of pepper spray on students

Los Angeles school district cuts 133 police officers, bans use of pepper spray on students
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California’s largest school district in Los Angeles approved plans on Tuesday to cut 133 police officer jobs and ban the use of pepper spray on students. 

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s board announced its decision to reduce its police force by one-third and institute the pepper spray ban in a move to make students of color more comfortable at school, according to The New York Times. 

The district also declared it would divert $25 million to go toward a Black Student Achievement plan to help minority students through increased counseling, teacher development, curriculum updates and other programs promoting inclusion.

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Board member Jackie Goldberg said students and community organizers were involved with the plan’s development.

“Needed services and supports are made possible by trimming the school police budget,” she said. “I have heard the concerns of Black students who have felt targeted by school police. I believe there are creative ways to keep our schools safe that don’t rely on having an officer stationed on campus.”

The decision comes after months of discussions on the role of police in the district of about 650,000 students and will leave the district with 211 officers. In total, the plan intends to get rid of 70 sworn officers with arrest powers, 62 non-sworn officers and one support staff member, according to the Times.

Ahead of the board’s vote, Superintendent Austin Beutner detailed the plansaying district officers will not be deployed on high school campuses and will instead be “positioned nearby.” Schools in the district will replace their on-campus officers with “climate coaches,” whose role will be to mentor students and call attention to implicit bias. 

“We’ve been systematically failing Black children as a country,” Beutner wrote. “Schools must be part of the solution, because a great education is the most important part of the path out of poverty.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Chief Leslie Ramirez contested the plan, saying it had “potential liabilities, lacks clarity and will result in unintended consequences impacting the safety of students and staff,” according to the Times. She argued that the force had already adjusted its presence on campus. 

Last summer, in the midst of the protests over George Floyd’s death, the Los Angeles school district curtailed its police force by 35 percent, leading 20 officers and the chief to resign due to their opposition.