July 28, 2020
WHHO Letter to Board Member Melvoin,
WHHO Opposition to recent LAUSD vote to cut Los Angeles School Police Department funding
In the matter of LAUSD’s Board passing a 35% cut ($25 million) to LASPD, and specifically your vote advocating for an even larger cut, the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization, in the interest of its members and teachers, parents and students in the community it represents at large, has taken a position to strongly OPPOSE this action for the following reasons:
A rush to political judgment. With respect to your role as a Board Member representing a large district which includes half of Woodland Hills, one of your most basic duties is to ensure all your students receive a world class education in a safe and healthy environment. You were not elected to be a social justice warrior jumping on the bandwagon of activists fighting against a current societal issue that’s not in any way connected with the safety of our children on school campus. In defending your vote1, you wrote how you came to your conclusion to cut LASPD’s budget because of Covid-19’s greater impact on communities of color and the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and other African American’s nationwide at the hands law enforcement which sparked the national Black Lives Matter movement. Conflating LASPD’s budget with these otherwise valid concerns of systemic racism across our country is just plain wrong.
You did not wait for the Superintendent’s Task Force Report on School Police before making your decision. On June 22nd, 2020 Superintendent Austin Beutner assembled a bi-partisan and well qualified nine-member panel to review School Police on LAUSD campuses. The task force was formed to assess the training, practices, policies and budget of the Los Angeles School Police and examine the department’s roles and responsibilities, comparing community experiences at other large public-school districts and collecting perspectives from Los Angeles Unified’s key stakeholders, including students, staff, families and community members. If you had the best interests of your students’ safety in mind, you would have waited for the task force’s findings and recommendations before cut LASPD budget by 35%. In fact, not only did you vote to cut LASPD’s budget by 35%, a week earlier you had voted to cut funding by 50%, which ultimately did not garner enough support to pass. As a former teacher, you should understand it is not logical to make decisions devoid of research and facts, yet you have done just that when you rushed your vote devoid of facts but full of activist talking points.
Your vote leaves our children more vulnerable to school violence. While matters of social injustice and systemic racism certainly have validity and should be raised, and in what better place to educate than in a LAUSD classroom, your vote left a majority of LAUSD students less safe to learn these issues. You cast your vote even though a recent LAUSD internal survey showed that rather than feeling traumatized by the presence of police, 90% of students reported feeling safer in class.
We live in a cruel time in history when students bring weapons onto campus and worse, school shootings are on the rise. March 2020 was the first March in nearly two decades that didn’t have a school shooting which coincided with school campus’ being closed down nationwide. In your Medium post you assert that 85% of school shootings happen on campus’ with armed guards but you fail to mention how the severity of the situation could have been much more catastrophic had it not been for security being present. Since 2017-2018, mass shooting threats more than doubled in LAUSD and LASPD have answered 360,000 calls for service, which include hundreds of calls for assaults, robberies and campus lockdowns. In response to those sad statistics, LASPD officers kept the peace without firing a single bullet or applying one choke hold. And pepper spray was only used 13 times since 2017, equating to only .004 percent of all interactions. That type of restraint and professionalism should be commended not penalized with a $25 Million dollar cut.
Reallocated money will not reach West Valley Schools. LAUSD Board voted to cut school police funding by 35%, district-wide, with the plan to reinvest that money into specific district schools with high concentration of African American students to help in their achievement by adding PSW’s, counselors and safety monitors. While those are all great things that certainly should be invested in, they should not come at the expense of student safety. As Black students make up only 8% of LAUSD students, and the reallocated funds funneled from the cuts made to LASPD will only go to activities that benefit this 8% of students, the other 92% of LAUSD campuses, made up from a very diverse group of racial and ethnic backgrounds will now be less safe. As the West Valley and Woodland Hills doesn’t have schools that will qualify for the reallocated money that will be spent on PSW’s, counselors and safety monitors, you have made West Valley and Woodland Hills schools less safe by stripping away school police and returning nothing back of value in return. In fact, not only did you vote with the majority of the board to cut LASPD’s budget by 35%, a week earlier you had voted to cut funding by 50%, which ultimately did not garner enough support to pass.
Where will new PSW, counselor and safety monitor hires come from? Since there is not currently a waiting list of qualified and credentialed PSW’s (Psychiatric Social Workers), Counselors and Safety Monitor’s where will all these new hires suddenly come from. You cut the School Police budget cut with NO plan of how the district is supposed to find and hire these credentialed individuals.
You did not have data on what the cuts would mean before you voted. Board member Melvoin, you did not request to hear from (now retired) School Police Chief Todd Chamberlin before you cast your vote on what the budget cuts would actually mean in real terms. Maybe you didn’t care, but if you had bothered to ask, you had you would have learned that your vote now means:
• A bare minimum of protection and safety services.
• Immediate loss of 65 police officers whose sworn oath was to protect LAUSD students.
• 39 additional officers that were set to be hired, will no longer be.
• Overtime hours eliminated. Overtime security is very often needed for after hour school programs, activities and athletic team events. How will schools now deal with the lack of security at these after-hours events?
• Dismantling of critical social media team that monitors for school threats and cyber-bullying.
• Loss of sex trafficking liaison to LAPD.
• A reduced threat assessment team.
• No response to after-hour campus break-ins (when break-ins occur) because LASPD forced to cut after-hours and overtime budget. This means that when campus break-ins occur, LASPD will not be able to respond outside of school hours and weekends and because students are not be able to return to campus until after a police report is completed, students will miss out on hours of valuable instruction time.
Board Member Melvoin, you did not request to meet nor did you get opinions from Woodland Hills principals, parents and students (virtually or online survey) before you made your decision, even though you have the capability to do so, as demonstrated by the outreach done regarding opinions on going back to school campus in the fall.
For all these reasons and more, we condemn the LAUSD School Board decision, and your vote specifically, because your vote demonstrated the failure of your most basic job function ensuring all your students receive a world class education in a safe and healthy environment and you’ve jeopardized the health, safety and well-being of our children and students and teachers.
We ask that you change you vote and protect our students and teachers and ask your fellow Board members to recall the Motion and reinstate the funding.
JOHN M. WALKER, Esq.
Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization.
Footnote 1 https://medium.com/@nickmelvoin/reimagining-student-safety-in-la-unified-my-vote-on-the-school-police-budget-f5d8c8b80e34