Cracking Down on the Juvenile Crime System

September 16, 2014
Cracking Down on the Juvenile Crime System

Under a new policy, misbehaving students in Los Angeles will now be sent to the principal’s office, rather than the courthouse. The disciplinary reforms mark a shift that according to both educators and justice officials will help prevent students from becoming mired in the criminal justice system.

Changes to Zero Tolerance

The new policy is the latest rollback of the 1970’s and 1980’s “zero tolerance” policies. The measures aim to address the real underlying reason for the misconduct, rather than doll out harsh punishments for possessing alcohol, tobacco, and less than an ounce of marijuana, in addition to schoolyard fights. Students ages 13 to 17 are covered by the new policy. There will now be a step-by-step formula for these infractions that will now result in parent conferences, drug counseling or interventions at offsite counseling centers. Previously, these violations sent a student to court or probation. It should be noted that more serious infractions, such as selling drugs or brandishing a weapon will still result in an arrest or citation.

In January the Obama administration issued its recommendation to resolve conflicts surrounding arrests and citations. “We want students to be with us, not pushed out and sent to jail,” Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy said. “We have been disproportionately incarcerating, disproportionately citing, and disproportionately suspending youth of color, and it’s wrong.”

Racial Disparities

The policy also aims to reduce racial disparities. “It really is in low-income communities of color that we’ve seen this increase in law enforcement presence,” said Ruth Cusick, an attorney with law firm Public Counsel. She also helped negotiate the policy changes along with the Los Angeles police force. According to data provided to the Labor/Community Strategy Center, 93 percent of the approximately 9,000 arrests and tickets issued to students during the 2011-2012 school year were given to black and Latino students.


Source:, Los Angeles schools decriminalize discipline, August 20, 2014

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