Militant Journalism

Students Not Suspects: the movement to defund and remove school police

On June 16, during a closed-door Los Angeles Unified School District board meeting, members from Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Students Deserve, and other members of the Students Not Suspects Coalition gathered on the corner of Lucas Avenue and Third street, near downtown Los Angeles, before marching toward the LAUSD building. Surrounded by a crowd of approximately 400 people who congregated in support for the movement, the organizers denounced the systemic racist police system. The group also lifted the voices of teachers, bus drivers, parents, and most importantly the Black, Brown, and Muslim youth of LAUSD. 

Sarah Djato, a rising senior from LAUSD Dorsey High and member of the organization Students Deserve, opened the rally by saying, “Students Deserve is a grassroots organization that organizes to divest from the policing of our Black, Brown, and Muslim youth and investing in our education, our schools, and our community.”

Djato brought a spotlight to the organization’s recent campaigns to dismantle two terrorizing tactics of the Los Angeles School Police Department. Djato’s comments also point to how the law enforcement budget had expanded in recent years to where the 2020-2021 LAUSD allotted nearly $70 million dollars to Los Angeles School Police Department, the largest independent school police department in the United States. Leaders of the youth criticized LAUSD in its complicit endangerment of K-12 students’ lives by referencing the LASPD’s 3,389 arrests (2014-2017), in which a quarter involved elementary- to middle school-aged youth. 

Furthermore, the group demanded an increase in college counselors, nurses, pupil services, and attendance counselors and an investment into more confidential translation services. They also demanded the hiring of Psychiatric Social Workers as an alternative to the LASPD, and another described as a field staff administrator for the LAUSD School Mental Health and the Division of Student Health and Human Services.

Liberation News spoke to Karla Payes, a LAUSD PSW and an organizer with Students Not Suspects Coalition, who said, “As a Psychiatric Social Worker [my] one purpose is advocating for all of [my] students, especially Black, Brown and Muslim students, by making sure their voices are heard.” She added that there is currently only one PSW for every 1,750 LAUSD students, which is grossly inadequate to meet the demands of all the students, leaving many silent and unprotected. Karla and other PSWs are calling for at least one PSW per school and a maximum of 500 students per PSW.

In light of recent uprisings, the systemic oppression under capitalism has become clear, and members of the working class as well as the youth are rising to demand an end to such oppression. All progressive and revolutionary people should stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Students Deserve, and other members of the Students Not Suspects Coalition in their demand to reinvest the Los Angeles School Police Department budget into services and programs that benefit the lives and education of the youth. The programs and services being sought are ones that exist outside the very policing structures that are not only systematically incarcerating and murdering the adults of the community but the children as well. As long as these oppressive structures remain intact, the fight will continue.

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