“We have to dismantle white supremacy.”, these are the words of the incoming president of the UTLA, Cecily Myart-Cruz. These words represent over 30,000 teachers, counselors, school nurses, and the support staff who work in the schools of this district.
The UTLA announced that they refuse to reopen schools until the Los Angeles School Police Department is defunded. This department comprises of a force of about 400 odd officers and takes up $70 million from the total $7.9 billion of the funds.
From what seems like a power play by the labor union, the UTLA has put forward their conditions. The decision to defund the police is followed by redirecting these funds towards hiring mental health counselors for students.
This decision was taken by the UTLA board of directors after this motion was put to the vote. With a 35-2 vote result in favor of defunding the police, the Union took forward their protest. They have decided to encourage the school of the district to pressurize the officials into defunding the police department.
The money is to be out into the mental health development and counseling of students.
They plan on directly putting these funds into getting better mental health support for students. They also wish to get academic and guidance counselors. These are just two of how the Union wishes to help make students’ lives better in the district.
So, what triggered it? The UTLA has been in talks to defund the police department for years. Their argument is backed by evidence and multiple scenarios where the district schools can benefit from this decision. However, this motion was never put to the vote before due to numerous reasons.
The nationwide protests after the tragic death of George Floyd have sparked outrage in the people and the teacher’s Union. Some believe this was the last straw, and serious action against police brutality was long overdue.
The Union took this step to defund the police department after the protests went into action. They believe that the violent actions of the district school police department can set a bad example of students.
The president of the school police union was unhappy with this decision and believed that this step was unnecessary. The police union’s argument states that school police are important, and students need them.
They also mentioned that the school police should not be “demonized.” They mentioned that the officers working in schools are trained differently and practice law in ways that police officers generally do not.
The Union believes that the officers need to be present in school to defuse heated situations and bring peace and order in the school environment.
Their way of peaceful conflict resolution was contradicted by one of the students who has experienced and witnessed their general actions in school. Sarah Djato is a Dorsey /high School student who believes that the school police officers are not the best option for students.
According to her, the police officers in school are known to have used pepper spray on students in some cases. This method affected the students who were a part of the fight and otherwise. Students who are not responsible for violent behavior in school are also subject to this form of discipline.
It is believed that students of color are more likely to be the subject of such actions. The students at the high school believe that when young children are exposed to such racism since the beginning, it molds their minds differently.
The black lives matter movement has set this action by the UTLA in motion. The Union is positive that the money should be taken from the police department. Students are more likely to benefit from it once it is put into something more important, like mental health development.
Police brutality can be witnessed right from schools to the streets of the country. Steps like these bring the power back to the people and instigate change. The black lives matter movement is just the fuel this fire needed to burn brighter than ever before.