Los Angeles County education officials passed a resolution calling for the immediate release of students detained in juvenile halls and camps to protect their health and well-being in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced Wednesday.
The resolution advocates for the release of students currently incarcerated or awaiting trial who are nonviolent offenders, have compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions, are nearing the end of their camp placement and who pose no danger to themselves or others.
The Los Angeles County Office of Education, in partnership with the Los Angeles County Probation Department, operates fully accredited high schools that offer comprehensive educational services to young people detained in the county’s juvenile halls and camps. The programs currently serve some 600 students, most of whom are young men of color.
The release of juveniles from camps and halls would require court approval under state law.
“The health and safety of students and staff in our Juvenile Court Schools are top priorities for us,” county Board of Education President James Cross said. “Our resolution aims to protect these young people and their ability to succeed in school.”
L.A. County Office of Education Superintendent Debra Duardo said her office is dedicated to providing a model instructional program, but “learning cannot happen in an unsafe or fearful environment — and unfortunately, that is the condition right now in these locked facilities.”
She said that following vital hygiene and social distancing directives is extremely difficult at the moment.
“Vulnerable youth are at risk of exposure to the coronavirus, and that is not acceptable,” Duardo said.
Officials said LACOE school counselors could work with students to identify a sound educational placement upon release. Students not enrolling in their schools of residence would be welcomed to attend a LACOE county community school if appropriate, if the resolution is approved.