Our Children Deserve Better: Now Is the Time to Bring Back School Police

With the rise in violence, drug use and public safety concerns escalating throughout public and private schools across California, a growing number of concerned parents and educators are demanding that lawmakers put law enforcement officers back in schools.

On May 7, parents from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) went before the school board to call for the reinstatement of police officers on campus after officers were largely removed in response to the disastrous “defund the police” movement that took the country by storm following the 2020 death of George Floyd.

“[Our kids] tell us that the bathrooms smell like weed,” L.A. mother Maria Luisa Palma told the board. “A lot of kids don’t want to use the bathroom at school. Some of them call their parents to come pick them up to use the bathroom at home.”

Palma recently went on Fox & Friends First to explain further. “High school, middle school students, they bring home videos that the kids have taken on campus of fights — very, very, intense fights. This has become the norm here. The district is normalizing this type of violence, and we hear it from our kids.”

Just three years ago, the Los Angeles school board voted unanimously to cut 133 school police positions — 70 sworn employees, 62 non-sworn employees and one support staff member. The staff reductions reduced the school police department’s annual budget from $77.5 million to $52.5 million.

As a result, law enforcement officers were replaced by “school climate coaches,” who are trained to implement positive school culture and climate, use social–emotional learning strategies to strengthen student engagement, and understand and address implicit bias.

Today, schools across the state are feeling the effects. According to data from the LAUSD board, since officers were removed from schools, fighting and physical aggression have nearly doubled from 2,270 incidents to 4,569. 

Gil Gamez, president of the Los Angeles School Police Association, said the school police force is now nearly half of what it was before the cuts, and the remaining officers are ordered to drive around the areas near schools.

“Our response times sometimes take 15 to 20 minutes,” he told ABC7. “It’s not the two-to-three-minute response time you’d get if an officer were actually on campus. Crime has gone up 200% on campus, and now we have deaths resulting from fentanyl, as well as students being stabbed and multiple gang fights on campus.”

A tragic example of what has occurred in and around local schools since trained law enforcement officers were replaced by unequipped and unexperienced successors came on April 15 at Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles.

A few blocks from campus, a student who was being attacked by at least five other students pulled out a gun and opened fire, killing a 15-year-old. In that incident, a nonpolice school safety worker, part of the “safe passages” program designed to help students get to and from school unharmed, allegedly declined to intervene when approached by students just before the fight began.

In a cellphone video of the incident, the worker can be heard saying off camera, just before the fight began: “Let them … fight. I’m not breaking up s—. I don’t give a f—.”

“One student died because safe passages do not work,” said Diana Guillen, a leader on a key district parent advisory council, to the Los Angeles Times.

Shiva Bagheri, another LAUSD parent, blames the “defund the police movement” for the lawlessness in both schools and the state as a whole. 

“It’s just a bunch of crazy people who are ruining our streets,” she told Fox News. “My daughter saw two armed robberies in broad daylight. So, of course, we need the police there. That’s the only way as parents are going to feel that our kids are safe at school.”

Until officers are brought back to schools, Palma believes that students, including her son, will continue to struggle academically. “How can kids concentrate on developing their academic capabilities when the schools are not safe?” she asked. “It’s heart-wrenching to feel that we take such pains and make huge investments in our children to keep them safe at home only for them to be exposed to drugs in the bathrooms and witness violence up close.”

After hearing from several concerned parents, LAUSD leaders said they are working to address concerns while ensuring student safety.

“The safety and security of our students should always be our top priority,” LAAPOA President Marshall McClain says. “There is an urgent need for a stronger, more immediate police presence to protect our children so they have a safe learning environment. It’s time to listen to the concerns of parents and take decisive action to restore order and safety in our schools.”