Los Angeles Unified Working to Expand Diversion Programs to Further Reduce Student Arrests and Increase Services

LOS ANGELES (Oct. 1, 2019) – Los Angeles Unified is working to expand the number of eligible charge codes for diversion to reduce overall arrests and citations at schools, while building additional community partnerships with local service providers to increase services and opportunities for students who are diverted from the formal juvenile justice system. The Los Angeles Unified Youth Diversion and Development (YDD) Working Group, established by Superintendent Austin Beutner, will provide recommendations to the Board of Education on specific plans to address these issues.

“Los Angeles Unified is committed to increasing diversion programs that help reduce the number of student arrests and citations, particularly among African American males and other students of color,” Superintendent Beutner said. “We are working with local community organizations to establish additional partnerships to provide the services students need.”

Los Angeles Unified launched a youth diversion referral program in 2014 to address the high number of youth being introduced into the criminal justice system. Over the past five years, nearly 2,000 students have been referred to these diversion programs and about 90 percent of those students have successfully completed the program. However, a report published by UCLA’s Bunche Center for African American Studies identified an opportunity to further reduce youth involvement in the criminal justice system. In response, Superintendent Beutner established the YDD Working Group.

The YDD Working Group is a joint effort that includes UCLA Bunche Center for African American Studies, Million Dollar Hoods, the Social Justice Learning Institute, Brotherhood Crusade, Suits in Solidarity, and the Los Angeles School Police Department. The group will continue to engage stakeholders to finalize strategies to prevent more youth from being introduced into the criminal justice system, and to ensure that they receive the services they need.

“The research clearly shows that children who are criminalized in school experience significantly poorer life outcomes than their peers,” Million Dollar Hoods Director of Public Policy and UCLA Ralph J. Bunche Center Policy Advisor Isaac Bryan said. “Now is the time for Los Angeles Unified to lead in expanding opportunity and support for all students. It’s time to double down on the District’s investments in care and diversion as alternatives to arrests and citations”

“The Ralph J. Bunche Center at UCLA is committed to using the power of our research to end the criminalization of youth and to support the expansion of student support services, restorative justice practices, and community based interventions,” Million Dollar Hoods Director and UCLA Ralph J. Bunche Center Director Kelly Lytle Hernandez said.

“We are proud to support Los Angeles Unified’s efforts to address school climate, create alternatives to arrest and to ensure that every child has an opportunity to learn and thrive throughout the district,” Social Justice Learning Institute Founder and Executive Director D’Artagnan Scorza said.

“Anytime you substitute intervention programs for punitive, disciplinary interaction between youth and law enforcement officials, it’s a step in the right direction toward an improved educational environment,” Suits in Solidarity Co-Founder Kerman Maddox said. “Los Angeles Unified has not only recognized this but they’ve acted accordingly. We’ve enjoyed working with Los Angeles Unified on this project and look forward to bolder, student friendly, reform efforts like this under the leadership of Superintendent Beutner.”

“Our mandate remains providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for all Los Angeles Unified students,” Los Angeles School Police Chief Steven Zipperman said. “Identifying alternatives and systems of support to punitive responses to non-serious criminal acts by students while on campus during school hours provides greater opportunities for paths toward graduation, growth, and life success. We are committed to working with all our external partners in this signature program”