One day after a shooting at a Texas elementary school that killed 19 students and two teachers, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced updated safety protocols aimed at improving student and staff safety on campuses.
According to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, the district will conduct an “access assessment” to reduce points of entry to campuses. It will also explore “safe corner” designations so students and staff will know the most protected areas on campus in the event of a shooting or other emergency.
District officials will also explore using mobile apps with GPS capability to help first responders more effectively access emergency incidents. The district will also look into enhanced mental health services, including considering reducing the counselor-to-student ratio.
“Since Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and now in Uvalde, Texas, we have witnessed that ready access to guns for anyone, including students, without any filter, means that any place in America can become a dangerous place, whether it’s a movie theater, a grocery store, a temple, a church or a school,” Carvalho said in a statement. “Thanks to the Board of Education, Los Angeles Unified has implemented numerous safety measures in our school communities. However, as part of the ongoing review of our practices and procedures, we must continue to assess and update safety protocols in order to keep our students, employees and families as safe as possible.”
According to the district, it is also expanding collaboration with law enforcement and other first responders to share information, beginning with maps of LAUSD schools. During a shooting or other critical incident, Los Angeles School Police Department Chief Leslie Ramirez will work with personnel from other agencies to ensure a rapid exchange of information in an effort to shorten response time, Carvalho said.
The Los Angeles Board of Education voted in February 2021 to replace school police officers on campuses with staff trained in de-escalation strategies and conflict resolution. School police officers remain on-call to respond to emergencies and incidents on campuses.
The change, which included cutting 133 school police positions, reduced the police budget from $77.5 million to $52.5 million. The move came amid a national push to scale back police spending following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
While slashing the police budget, the board also approved a $36.5 million Black Student Achievement Plan. The board was presented with a survey ahead of the votes that found only 35% of Black students said police on campus made them feel more safe, versus 51% of all LAUSD students. The survey responses included stories by Black students about being stereotyped and detained.
Board members also prohibited the LA School Police Department from using oleoresin capsicum spray, also known as pepper spray, on students.