Green Dot has always believed that schools should be a place where students feel safe, supported and cared for; not a place where they are seen as criminals or suspects. Unfortunately, this has been the norm for students in Los Angeles for more than a quarter-century. Since 1993, the Los Angeles Unified School District has required all of its middle and high schools to search students randomly every day ‘to ensure an effective learning environment.’ Under this policy, students are randomly selected and required to leave class with their belongings and go to a designated area or hallway where school staff wave a handheld metal detector over their bodies and search their belongings. In a study the ACLU found that between 2013 and 2015 only approximately 0.08% of individual student searches conducted by LAUSD revealed a weapon of any sort, none of which were guns. In 2015, LAUSD insisted that this policy be applied to charter schools that are on district facilities.
Green Dot openly opposed LAUSD’s random metal detection search, asserting that the policy destroys the positive relationships between adults and students at schools without any evidence of creating a safe learning environment. We refused to implement the policy and instead offered an alternative safety approach that was grounded in relationships between adults and students on campus, positive behavior supports, and restorative justice practices. A study at Oakland Unified School District revealed that violence and expulsions were eliminated and the rate of suspensions was reduced by more than 75% when restorative justice practices were implemented.
During this time we saw similar results in our own schools. As a result of restorative justice practices, we found a reduction in suspensions, a decline in incidents in addition to an average daily attendance rate above 90%. Despite these findings and alternative proposals, LAUSD threatened to close the 9 Green Dot schools using district facilities forcing us to reluctantly comply with the policy. In 2017, to reduce the adverse impacts on our students and our school culture, we developed a computerized randomization system that eliminated bias, conducted trainings with our staff, and communicated with families about why and how we were instituting this policy.
Throughout these efforts, we have worked with 70 partners including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who has been leading the Students not Suspects campaign, Public Counsel, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and dozens of other charter public schools to eliminate the policy. We are proud that board members have approved a resolution to discontinue the policy by July 1, 2020 and develop an alternative safety policy that is centered around positive behavior interventions and supports for students. This will ensure that all schools in Los Angeles live up to the promise of creating environments that support learning and promote positive self-image while preserving student and staff safety.