Los Angeles School Board to Fire 133 Police Officers in Favor of ‘Climate Coach’ Program

Evan Symon:

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education announced a sweeping overhaul of school security, voting to fire 133 Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD) members in favor of school “climate coaches”.

The decision to cut a third of the LASPD force will leave the school district with 211 LASPD officers to keep the peace at schools. The defunded LASPD funds will instead finance “climate coaches”, community members who will work with students to improve school receptivity and address racial bias. For LASPD officers who do stay on the force, the board also ruled that pepper spray could no longer be used against students.

In addition, the $25 million slashed from the LASPD budget last year will go to the Black Student Achievement Plan, a program that will hire more social workers, counselors, and professional development workers, introduce social justice and diversity into class curriculum, and bring a focus on math classes.

The plan for the overhaul has been in the works since last year following the growth of movements wanting to defund the police and bring social justice changes following the death of George Floyd in May 2020. The subsequent protests and riots culminated in many lawmakers and community leaders bringing about significant changes to local law enforcement, such as Los Angeles cutting $150 million from the LAPD budget in November 2020.

But calls for Los Angeles schools to follow suit, led by community and student activists, never materialized last year, partially due to continued COVID-19 related issues. Many were frustrated after other school districts in California, such as Oakland, voted to completely eliminate their school police force. But constant campaigning by the groups finally brought the plan to a vote on Tuesday, with board members overwhelming to vote in favor of the changes after nearly an hour of comments by students and parents.