Los Angeles Police Department Truancy Sweeps

Ticketing Motivated by Racial Profiling

The LAPD has prudently altered its truancy policy, which has overwhelmingly affected students of color in the past. A full 88 percent of the 47,000 tickets issued from 2004 to 2009 were issued to Latinos or blacks — and of the 13,000 curfew tickets issued on school grounds, not one went to a white student.

Instead of ticketing those students who are late to class, officers will now ask students if they have a legitimate reason for not being in class and focus more on getting students to school on time. Furthermore, police will no longer target students once they are on school grounds — leaving it up to school authorities to take appropriate action.

Understandably, students should get to school on time, but the former method (truancy sweeps leading to expensive tickets) was based on fear of police.

African American and Latino students make up 74 percent of the population in the LAUSD, but received 85 percent of the truancy violation tickets from 2005-2009.

Of course, this new policy is not perfect — it could benefit from an additional school-based program that addresses the root causes of truancy — but that doesn’t concern the LAPD. For now, having the LAPD cut back on ticketing students for tardiness is the best possible solution.

— Saad Asad

Senior Staff Writer

Truancy Sweeps Detract from Education

While the LAPD’s scaled-back efforts certainly make for fairer policy, neither system addresses the root cause.

The original strategy wasn’t merely intended to encourage school attendance in the Los Angeles Unified School District; it was pitched as a way to keep students from committing crimes during the school day.

Supporters of the new policy introduce indicators that the crime rates increase when there are no sweeps.

Both policies do little to address the root cause of truancy. The problem runs far deeper than a few disengaged students — it’s a public education system that falls short in offering guidance to those that need it most at a young age.

Targeting truants when they’re already 16 or 17 probably does little to address those shortcomings. Mentoring programs are necessary, as students need support rather than discouragement.

Los Angeles Unified School District is currently using a three-tiered strategy to combat truancy by working at the base level . They’re working to provide a more positive climate at schools by creating alternative education programs such as the national “Big Picture Learning” approach, and launching a media campaign to encourage kids to improve their attendance and stress to the parents the destructive effects of truancy on their student’s education.

As of 2011, the LAUSD dropout rate stands at 30 percent. Clearly the best possible solution to this pressing issue is to focus on school mentorship — not LAPD arrests.

— Aleks Levin

Contributing Writer

Students Need Mentoring, Not Tickets

The LAPD is reforming its procedure of ticketing students who are en route to school.

Police will now abstain from “truancy sweeps” for the first hour of school and will begin to ask students why they are running late to class, instead of ticketing them without question.

While the now-banned policy had the right intentions — the idea was that ticketing students would scare them straight — it lost all merit in practice.

Tickets, starting at around $200 and escalating dramatically for repeat offenders, cost students steep fines. Some students reported that the ticketing process itself could even take up another estimated 45 minutes of lost class time.

As if those delays weren’t enough, the students who had to attend traffic court also missed a full day of school for the proceedings. Clearly, the ticketing process detracted from the overall intention of the program: to get kids back in school.

If safety and crime is truly the biggest issue, police should be more concerned with being a safe escort to school for students.

Jorge Villegas, assistant to the LAPD Chief, said that police are directed to take students not involved in crime to their school or to the nearest Attendance Improvement Center.

Juvenile crime most often occurs in the daylight hours, so keeping youth in school should be a top priority.

By asking students if they have legitimate excuses and only conducting curfew sweeps in high-crime areas, the LAPD is making its truancy policy both fairer and more narrowly targeted.

— Alex Pakzad

Staff Writer

Josey Tsao/Guardian
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