You’re Never Too Young to Get Hauled into Court

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Who knew that heavily ticketing children as young as 7 might have a deleterious effect on them and their parents?

Apparently, Los Angeles school police and administrators do now and have agreed to review a policy that resulted in 33,500 court summonses for students 10 to 18 years of age during a three-year period. Data from the Center for Public Integrity indicates that the Los Angeles Unified School District police force of 340 officers handed out on average 28 citations every day of 2011 for offenses that were dominated by tardiness and disturbing the peace.

Infractions by the district’s 680,000 students include not wearing a bike helmet, jaywalking, vandalism, having cigarettes and possession of graffiti markets. Around 40% of the tickets were given to students 10 to 14 years old.

Latinos and African Americans were found more likely to be disciplined than whites. Latinos, who are 73% of the school system, were 77% of those cited. African Americans are 10% of the district but are ticketed at a 15% rate. Whites are 9% of enrollment, but are only 3% of those cited.

Educational experts are increasingly expressing concerns that thrusting children into the criminal justice system for low-level offenses increases the chance of them dropping out. Students who receive tickets, many of whom are from low-income families, can face fines in the hundreds of dollars and are required to bring their parents to informal traffic and juvenile court for lesser citations. It often means the loss of work for a parent, which can amplify family conflict.

How L.A. courts handle the youths may be a moot issue as budget cuts forced the shutdown of California’s only Informal Juvenile and Traffic Court this month. The court operates in multiple locations scattered across the county. For now, kids will go to probation officers who’ll determine whether the students need any intervention instead of judges.

The city of Los Angeles recently changed its daytime curfew laws to drop basic fines of $250 and instead required counseling sessions.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

School Discipline Debate Reignited by New Los Angeles Data (by Susan Ferriss, The Center for Public Integrity)

L.A. School Police, District Agree to Rethink Court Citations of Students (by Susan Ferriss, The Center for Public Integrity)

CRC Turns to Challenge of LA School Police Citations in Wake of Truancy Vote (by Manuel Criollo, The Labor/Community Strategy Center)

Is LAUSD Sending Too Many Kids to Court for Minor Offenses? (by Vanessa Romo, KPCC)

An L.A. County Court for Young Offenders Closes (by Alexandra Zavis and Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times)

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