After critical news reports, Los Angeles school police and administrators have agreed to rethink enforcement tactics that have led to thousands of court citations yearly for young students in low-income, mostly minority neighborhoods, reports the Center for Public Integrity. The center and the Los Angeles-based Labor Community Strategy Center each analyzed previously unreleased citation records obtained from the Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department, the nation's largest school police force. The center found that between 2009 and the end of 2011, school police officers issued more than 33,500 tickets to students 18 and younger, with more than 40 percent handed out to kids 14 and 10 years old. That was an average of about 30 tickets a day. A large portion of the tickets for younger children were for disturbing the peace, which can include a physical fight or using threatening or disruptive language.
Some parents and concerned juvenile-justice judges have questioned whether it's appropriate for such minor indiscretions to be handled by police, rather than school authorities. Manuel Criollo of the Labor Community Strategy Center said L.A. Unified School Police Chief Steven Zipperman was surprised at revelations that children as young as 7 and 8 have been given court summonses, many of which include monetary penalties. Police and administrators agreed to discuss alternatives to ticketing for tardiness, disturbing the peace and “possession” offenses, which can include possession of cigarettes, lighters or magic markers that could be used for graffiti, Criollo said.