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LAUSD Board Removes Officers From Campuses, Directs Funds To Black Student Investment



San Fernando High School LAUSD

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board voted unanimously Tuesday to replace school police officers on campuses with staff trained in de-escalation strategies and conflict resolution and approve a $36.5 million Black Student Achievement Plan. 

The board voted to cut 133 school police positions — 70 sworn employees, 62 non-sworn employees and one support staff member. The staff reductions reduce the school police department’s annual budget from $77.5 million to $52.5 million. 

Instead of officers, school climate coaches will be stationed at all secondary schools. Officers will remain on call to respond to emergencies and incidents on campuses with a goal of a three-to-five minute response time. 

The school climate coach’s role will be to assist administrators and staff to support a safe and positive school culture and climate for all students and staff. They will be trained to: 

— implement positive school culture and climate; 

— use social-emotional learning strategies to strengthen student engagement;

 — use de-escalation strategies and support conflict resolution; 

— build positive relationships and elevate student voices;

 — eliminate racial disproportionately in school discipline practices; and 

— understand and address implicit bias.

 Individual schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District will not be able to opt in to have officers stationed on campus. The ability to opt in was in the initial proposal, but was taken out through an amendment from board member Kelly Gonez.

“Our jobs are to serve students and if you’re causing harm to a small group of students that is enough to address the action that is causing harm, even unintentionally causing harm,” Gonez said. 

In response to the vote, Los Angeles School Police Department Chief Leslie Ramirez said, “The LASPD’s commitment to remain focused on supporting the district and providing safety-related services that support student achievement and positive outcomes is paramount. `We have already initiated our plans to implement a service model and deployment strategy that aligns with protecting our school communities based on reforms that limit on-campus uniform presence. The department remains committed to the safety of our district and the continuity of safety-related service to our students, staff and community will remain our top priority.” 

During Tuesday’s meeting, board members also approved a $36.5 million Black Student Achievement Plan, which will allocate: 

— $4.4 million for curriculum and instruction, including expanding diverse representation, inclusion of Black authors, and social justice connections;

 — $2.4 million for teacher professional development; 

— $2 million for school curriculum grants for schools to supplement their curriculum to make it more inclusive to Black students; 

— $2 million for community partnership to work with organizations that have demonstrated success with Black students; 

— $30.1 million for school climate and wellness to reduce over- identification of Black students in suspensions, discipline and other measures through targeted intervention;

 — $7.9 million for psychiatric social workers; 

— $7.6 million for counselors; 

— $2.9 million for school climate coaches;

 — $6.5 million for restorative justice advisors; and 

— $5.2 million for flexible climate grants. 

Fifty-three schools have been identified as “targeted schools” for the plan, including Crenshaw, Dorsey, Fairfax, Gardena, Hamilton, Narbonne, Venice and Westchester high schools. 

The schools were identified because of their Black student enrollment, as well as several other factors including absence and suspension rates. Joseph Williams, of Students Deserve Justice, said that while the school board did not vote on their “Reimagining Student Safety Proposal,” the Black Student Achievement Plan was closer to their goals than the district’s December version.

 “There are so many things that we’re advocating for as part of this plan and we’re so happy to see that the superintendent has amended his proposal from what he proposed in December … to actually center what students and community members have been asking for, and the resources in a targeted way that students and community members have been asking for,” said Williams, who called into the board’s meeting Tuesday. Board members also voted to prohibit the Los Angeles School Police Department from using oleoresin capsicum spray, also known as pepper spray, on students. Previously, they were allowed to use the riot control tactic on students for “self-defense or defending others from imminent threat or physical force of violence,” according to previous guidelines.

“Obviously, this is a big undertaking and required a lot of coordination, but I know we know and all believe that our Black students are certainly worth this effort,” board member Kelly Gonez said during the meeting. Student board member and Crenshaw High School STEMM Magnet senior Kamarie Brown said, “Believe in our Black students, invest in our Black students and show it today by passing this resolution end the war on Black students and to put LAUSD on a path based on principles of community and justice.”

“Police do not equal peace, police do not equal safety. On the contrary, police and the culture of policing that runs across the faculty and administrators is one of the longest standing contradictions of educating Black students at LAUSD,” she said. 

Board member George McKenna, who voiced opposition for the proposal but voted yes said, “If in fact, school police are unnecessary, who are you going to call when stuff hits the fan, and how do you measure that which was prevented and never occurred because the presence of a police officer was a prevention.” 

“The parents expect us to have safe schools, and if you think the police are the problem, I think you got a problem yourself,” he added. 

Prior to the vote, a survey was presented to board members which collected responses from more than 35,000 LAUSD high school students, 6,600 parents and 2,300 certified and classified staff members on high school campuses. 

According to the survey, 51% of LAUSD students feel that having school police on campus makes the school safe, but only 35% of Black students said they felt it made the school safe. 

A quarter of Black female students said they do not feel safe with school police on campus, the survey reported.

“They’re very rude about how they handle people and detain them. They detained this young lady I know. She was a tomboy. Detained her like she was nothing. I mean slammed her and the whole nine. So, they are very rough, and they are not very respectful, and you complain, but it’s like our school is slow or something because they are still there,” a Black female student said in the survey. 

The survey also found a significant portion of parents and staff that opposed or were neutral regarding a potential, significant reduction of the school police department’s budget by 90% over the next three years. 

Only 14% of parents and 23% of staff were in support. Additionally, 63% of parents and 71% of staff supported the district engaging in a study of potential changes to ensure peaceful and safe campuses. 

Superintendent Austin Beutner announced Monday a $200 million commitment to address achievement gaps among Black students and others in the district.

“We’ve been systematically failing Black children as a country. Schools must be part of the solution, because a great education is the most important part of the path out of poverty,” Beutner said. “While we at L.A. Unified don’t have all the answers, we’re committed to making change.” 

Among the actions being taken by the district include spending $100 million to provide additional teachers to build a foundation for literacy, math and critical thinking skills among elementary school students. Work is underway at individual schools to finalize the details, but Beutner said plans would be finished by next month, and incorporated into school budgets for the 2021-22 school year.


CSUN To Provide iPad Air To All First-Time Freshmen, Transfers



CSUN Cal State Northridge

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) is one of eight CSU campuses that are part of the first phase of a new initiative, which provides a new iPad Air and other Apple products to first-time students.

The program called, California State University Connectivity Contribution to Equity and Student Success (CSUCCESS) is aimed at enhancing student achievement and create more equitable opportunities for students across the CSU system.

CSUN will be offering an iPad Air, Apple Pencil and Apple Smart Keyboard Folio to all first-time freshmen and new transfer students who register to participate in the initiative. The students will be able to keep the equipment, for free, through the completion of their undergraduate degree at the university.

“As a university committed to access, inclusion and technological innovation, CSUN is excited to join in the CSUCCESS Initiative and offer this powerful resource to our new students,” CSUN President Erika D. Beck said in a statement.. “We’re working tirelessly to remove barriers that may dim our students’ bright futures, and CSUCCESS is another impactful investment in student success.”

In addition to CSUN, the other CSU campuses participating in the launch of CSUCCESS are Bakersfield, Channel Islands, Fresno, Humboldt, Los Angeles, Maritime Academy and San Marcos. CSU officials hope to expand the initiative to all students in the California State University system in the future.

CSU officials noted that throughout the course of the pandemic, access to computing equipment and connectivity was identified as an obstacle for some CSU students. Over the course of the past year, the CSU invested more than $18 million to purchase more than 21,000 laptops and tablets and 10,000 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for students, in addition to loaning out millions of dollars of existing equipment.

There are no income-based eligibility requirements. Devices are expected to be made available in August. Upon graduation from CSUN, students will be asked to return the equipment. The devices are provided on a loaned basis so as not to impact students’ financial aid.

CSUN students can find out more about the initiative and register to participate here

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Hollywood Celebrities Partner With LAUSD To Create Film, Television Academy



Photo by Michael Vlasaty

A dozen Hollywood actors and producers have teamed up with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to create a film and television academy.

The coalition of leaders is spearheaded by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Don Cheadle, Kerry Washington, Mindy Kaling, Nicole Avant, Eva Longoria, Working Title Films founders Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) Co-Chairman Bryan Lourd, are partnering with the LAUSD to found the Roybal School of Film and Television Production, a specialized academy housed within the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center.

Set to launch in Fall 2022 as a magnet school, the Roybal School of Film and Television Production will provide Los Angeles Unified teachers with access to renowned storytellers, along with industry professionals and experts, and support students with a robust academic education and practical training, establishing a clear pathway to good-paying jobs, according to the district.

The inaugural program, to be overseen by Principal Blanca Cruz, will feature a specifically designed curriculum developed to meet the standards prescribed by the state of California and the University of California system. 

“We are really excited about this remarkable opportunity for collaboration and learning,” Roybal  Principal Blanca Cruz said in a statement. “Not only will it provide our students much-needed resources to support their hands-on learning experiences that are relevant in the entertainment industry, but it will also offer them the guidance and expertise needed to help them realize their inherent potential.”

In addition, students will receive real-world experience through a dedicated internship initiative. The Roybal School of Film and Television Production will start with ninth- and 10th-grade students and include Grades 11 and 12 over the next two years, with potential opportunity to expand the pilot program to more schools throughout the Los Angeles area.

“Our aim is to better reflect the diversity of our country. That means starting early. It means creating high school programs that teach young people about cameras, and editing and visual effects and sound and all the career opportunities that this industry has to offer. It means internships that lead to well-paying careers. It means understanding that we’re all in this together,” Clooney said in a statement. 

The founding members will serve on the Roybal School of Film and Television Production Advisory Board, lending their expertise and support to build a more inclusive pipeline of career-ready talent for the film and television industry.

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CSUN Receives Largest Donation In University History From MacKenzie Scott



CSUN Cal State Northridge

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) announced Tuesday that philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott and her husband Dan Jewett donated $40 million, the largest gift from a single donor in the institution’s history.

Scott, the former partner of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has donated a total of $2.74 billion to organizations that focus on the arts and combating racial discrimination.

“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved,” Scott wrote in a post announcing the billions in donations.

The gift to CSUN, which is designated to support presidential priorities, comes at an especially advantageous time for the university.

Erika D. Beck, who assumed the presidency of CSUN in January of this year, recently issued a report on what she heard during an intensive listening tour during her first 100 days. The report is the first step to a university-wide process starting this fall to create a roadmap for the future.

“This transformative gift provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance our future as leaders in equity-centered student success to provide a brighter and more equitable future for our students, their families and the communities we are so proud to serve,” said Beck.

Among the priorities identified in the Listening Tour Report, are the elimination of equity gaps, accelerating the work in diversifying the faculty, academic excellence, holistic student support and facilitating CSUN students’ educational goals and intellectual promise.

“While one-time dollars cannot be used to support long-term expenses in perpetuity, with a mix of focused spending and investment, we can, and will, use these dollars to transform our campus for generations to come,” Beck added.

Scott and Jewett’s gifts to higher education have focused on institutions that have higher proportions of students from historically underserved communities and excel at supporting their success. 

With multiple programs ranked nationally for their quality and excellence, CSUN was recently ranked 4th in the nation on CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index, which measures a college’s success at moving students up the social and economic ladder.

Other Southern California colleges and organizations also received donations from the couple, including Pasadena City College and the  L.A. Arts Endowment Fund.

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