Dozens of protesters rallied and marched in the downtown area Tuesday in support of cutting funding from the Los Angeles School Police Department.

The protest, organized in part by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, began at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, and the group then marched to Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters.

“We are here to de-fund the very system that continuously places Black students in harm’s way,” student Sara Jackson told the crowd. “So that children will no longer have to face weapons in their schools, so that we can never be profiled or arrested in front of our classmantes — dehumanized, desensitized.”

The board of directors of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing LAUSD teachers, recently voted to begin the process of formally supporting the defunding of the School Police Department, calling for money to go instead toward other education services, including counselors.

The movement mirrors a call that Black Lives Matter and other groups have been pushing at City Hall, calling for a major reduction in funding for the Los Angeles Police Department.

“We can come up with different ways of resolving conflict, wherein there is community pride and different people, different community interventionists are involved, where they’re able to come in and intervene and create a restoring of justice reform,” teacher Karla Payes told ABC7 at the rally. “So that’s the model we’ve been looking at for years, and we want to take this opportunity to perhaps implement it completely with the funding being re-allotted.”

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner on Monday said he is calling for a review of the district’s police practices, and said he would recommend elimination of the use of pepper spray and carotid holds by officers.

“We cannot ignore legitimate concerns and criticism that students and other members in the school community have about all forms of law enforcement,” Beutner said. “The culture and climate of schools must be founded on inclusion and respect. No person should feel the presence of a safety officer on a campus as an indictment of them or their character.”

The Los Angeles School Police Officers Association issued a statement Monday night saying it wants to work with the district to “ensure our schools are a safe place where the educational process may thrive.”

“As Superintendent Beutner stated, the Los Angeles School Police Department responded to over 150 `Mass School Threats’ on our LAUSD campuses/sites last year,” according to the association. “We handled those calls and other investigations with the utmost professionalism, and ultimately, we were able to successfully confiscate 22 firearms, leading to a safer environment for our students. The Los Angeles School Police Department prides itself on being part of the LAUSD family, and we have been an intricate part of hundreds of lockdowns on our LAUSD campuses to ensure the safety of our students and staff alike.

“Additionally, we responded to hundreds of dangerous trespassers on our campuses and conducted numerous investigations where students, teachers and school administrators were assaulted. The role of the Los Angeles School Police Department is to provide safety and security for our students/staff and to counsel and mentor our students so they can successfully graduate from our prestigious academic establishment.”

Max Arias, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents thousands of school support workers, including custodians, bus drivers and food-service workers, said the union supports a “defunding” — but not a disbanding — of the school police department.

“But to be clear, defunding the police does not mean eliminating the police,” he said in a statement. “It means defunding the policies and practices that criminalize our children and promote the school-to-prison pipeline. It means no guns, no handcuffs, no pepper spray on our children. It means more investment in education, counseling, parent engagement, after-school programs and other services that have been decimated over the last several decades, with dire consequences on communities of color.”

A coalition of other unions representing workers including principals, tradesmen and front-office workers, sent a letter to the district supporting the police department. The union noted that school police officers “have been specially trained in youth mental health first aid, trauma-informed practices, understanding mental health, working with children receiving special education services and responding to threats and workplace violence situations.”

The unions stressed: “Black lives matter. We support the ongoing fight to end racism, police brutality and abuse of authority in all its forms.”

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