Victory for Campaign to End Truancy Ticketing: LASPD Agree to End Curfew Sweeps and Limit Ticketing
By Joao Da Silva, Dignity in Schools Campaign
On Wednesday, October 19th , the Community Rights Campaign, CADRE, Youth Justice Coalition, Children’s Defense Fund, Public Counsel, and the ACLU of Southern California won another major victory in their campaign to end the ticketing of students for truancy/tardiness when the Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD) unveiled a new revised protocol for the enforcement of daytime curfew laws.
Since first committing to revise its policy in April, and after months of meetings with the aforementioned members of DSC-Los Angeles who worked for years to decriminalize student truancy, the LASPD announced that it would actively work to reduce the frequency with which school police officers give out $250 "truancy tickets" to students who are late to school. LASPD has also effectively put an end to “curfew sweeps” in which students are ticketed right outside, or even in some cases inside, school grounds.
These sweeps disproportionately target youth of color, and further contribute to pushing them out of school. According to data collected by the organizations working on the campaign, 82% of truancy citations issued in the past five years were given to Black and Latino students who make up only 74% of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) student population.
Curfew tickets, costing $250 or more, can be a significant financial burden for the majority of low-income families that make-up the LAUSD population, as well as cause students and their families to miss time from school and work. These criminalizing policies also contribute to a more hostile school climate and strain relationships between the community, school administrators, and law enforcement.
Citations issued to students for truancy are a result of Los Angeles Municipal Code 45.04 ("LAMC"), which imposes a daytime curfew on youth under the age of 18 and gives the LASPD and the LAPD the authority to detain and interrogate youth for being off school grounds during school hours. The proper application of the ordinance is for minor students who are either intentionally avoiding school or loitering in public places at times when they are required to be in school. Yet, in practice, a large number of students have received citations while on their way to school, simply for being late.
The majority of citations are given out by the LASPD during “curfew sweeps” which are carried out by a designated “truancy task force.” These sweeps often take place during morning hours in areas within the radius of a school. Students can be picked up right outside or within blocks of the school campus immediately following the bell and be taken to a processing center to receive citations.
“When you’re dealing with real-life issues dragging you down and making you late to school, the last thing you need when you get there is to run into police treating you like a criminal and making you feel like there’s no point to trying anymore,” said Nabil Romero, a recent graduate from Roybal Learning Complex in downtown L.A. who received a curfew ticket from L.A. School Police officers in spring 2011. “It’s good to see LASPD realize they need to support students instead of turning us back.”
The revised protocol, issued by Chief of Police Steven K. Zipperman, puts an end to the “curfew sweeps” and also states that officers be aware that truancy is not reason enough to search, handcuff, or detain a student.
The Community Rights Campaign, Public Counsel, CADRE, Youth Justice Coalition, ACLU-SC and Children’s Defense Fund applaud these measures, but they are also committed to ensure that student’s rights are respected and will actively monitor the LASPD to make sure that they are implemented.
The revisions to the Los Angeles School Police Department procedures were adopted October 19 and, if fully implemented:
• Stop unjustified ticket “task forces” and sweeps within the first 90 minutes of the start of school.
• Stop ticketing on or near school grounds, where school authorities should be responsible for students.
• Directs police to encourage students to get to school rather than ticketing them.
• Reinforces the requirement that police must ask students if they have a legitimate excuse before writing them a ticket.
• Requires a proactive quarterly monitoring process for the first year to review tickets and the ticketing process and to assess whether the policy is being implemented.
• Makes clear that truancy task forces, also known in the community as truancy sweeps, should not be conducted arbitrarily and without a legitimate and substantiated reason.
- Read the Press Release issued by the Campaign here.
- LA Times Article on the Campaign to End Truancy Ticketing.
- ABC News coverage of the Campaign's Victory.
- Lear More about the Campaign to End Truancy/Tardy Ticketing.