Return to Headlines

Board of Education Calls for End of Random Searches at Schools (06-18-19)

The Board of Education voted Tuesday to end the practice of random searches of students using handheld metal detectors as a safety measure on its campuses. 

Sponsored by Board President Mónica García, student Board Member Tyler Okeke and Board Members Kelly Gonez and Jacki Goldberg, the “Successful School Climate: Safe, Respectful, and Learning for All!” resolution calls for Los Angeles Unified to identify alternative means of ensuring school safety without the uses of individual searches, which Board members argue, ‘disrupt learning time and dehumanize students.’

“It is our duty to represent the voices of our students,” García said. “And I am proud to stand with our youth who are calling on us to be braver and bolder when it comes to ensuring that our students are feeling safe and well in schools. Let’s continue this conversation to create the alternative where all partners are moving forward toward a resolution. We are grateful to the coalition of community partners who are supporting this cause with our students!”

“School safety is foundational to our work,” Gonez said. “And as a Board we’ve taken a number of steps – including today – to ensure our campuses are safe and secure. Random searches, however, erode the supportive environment we strive to create at our schools. I’m proud we took this step to reduce the policing of our students.”

“There is nothing we do here that is more important than keeping our students safe,” Goldberg said. “The question is whether the policy as currently implemented helps keep students safe. Not only do I believe that it does not, but it actually creates more harm than good, because our young people mightily resent being searched without cause. And, for that reason I support this.”

"Administrative random searches are incredibly invasive, dehumanizing and communicate to students that they are viewed not as promising minds but as criminals,” Okeke said. “Los Angeles Unified must find alternatives to this practice that foster an inclusive, welcoming academic environment that values each student at every school."

With passage of the resolution, Superintendent Austin Beutner is expected to develop an alternative plan for school safety that eliminates the use of random searches by July 2020.

“The importance of providing a safe learning environment in our schools cannot be overstated,” Beutner said. “We must keep our students and employees safe, while promoting a positive school-going climate at every campus.”

“Our students deserve a safe and welcoming learning environment when they come to school every day, and we need to focus on policies that provide that safety to our school communities while keeping our kids free from any unnecessary searches,” Board Vice President Nick Melvoin said. “That’s why I led the creation of a safety task force to holistically study school safety, funded projects in my district to increase school security and co-sponsored today’s resolution to raise awareness and educate our families about safe gun storage. And it’s why I voted to end our random search policy—because I have come to believe that the current random wanding policy does not make our students safer, and in fact, it perpetuates over-policing and makes many students feel less secure and ready to learn in school. I have heard strong support for ending this policy from my constituents, student advocates and other community partners and look forward to continue to work together to ensure the safety of our kids.”

Also speaking in support of the resolution was Ana Mendoza, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California on behalf of the Students Not Suspects coalition.

“We are grateful for the Board of Education's resolution to sunset the random metal detector searches,” she said. “This marks an important victory for all Los Angeles students. We look forward to working with Los Angeles Unified to implement policies that are evidence-based, supportive and effective in keeping students safe.”

Dissenting board members were vocal in their reasoning.

“We have not done an extensive enough analysis of the pilot program to come to the conclusion that it is not effective,” Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III said. “I would like to see the pilot program fully implemented and evaluated before making a firm decision on suspending the random search practice without offering a viable alternative.”

“As an elected Board Member and former principal and educator, my number one priority has always been to provide a safe and secure learning environment for every student in Los Angeles Unified,” Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson said. “A fair, nondiscriminatory, and respectful wanding program provides increased safety for students and staff. It may not be the perfect tool, but until a reasonable and effective alternative is proposed, I sincerely believe that random wanding serves as a deterrent for students who may consider bringing a weapon to school.”