Board of Supervisors approves motion to change school resource officer contract process

Los Angeles County Seal.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to change the way the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department contracts with school districts for their school resource deputy programs, requiring districts to more directly deal with the Board of Supervisors on an annual basis.  

Tuesday’s vote on the motion — which was divided into nine directives — was considered in two parts, with the first two directives separated from the rest. The initial discussion was for the new process with the contracts, while the remaining seven involved requests for more LASD data by the Board of Supervisors.  

The move, according to proponents of the decision, will ask LASD to provide the board with further data about the program and will expand services available to districts in addition to deputies, such as clinical and social workers from the Department of Public Health and other social-emotional supports.  

The opponents to the first two directives in the motion, Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn, said local communities should have the ability to decide how they wish to provide security at their schools.  

In support of the motion she authored alongside Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Holly Mitchell said the initiative was designed to expand the services and allow governing boards to come before the Board of Supervisors to negotiate their needs for these services.  

“Our vision is that local school boards will continue to make decisions, but will negotiate with the board,” said Mitchell. “The intent of this motion, and the language therein, is not to limit the power of local (elected school boards), but rather to expand services from which they can choose to meet the diverse needs of their constituents.” 

Mitchell cited surveys that said law enforcement’s presence on school campuses can have negative impacts on students, especially students of color, saying high levels of security can contribute to more suspensions and other challenges.   

“In addition, a review of school policing studies found no evidence of improved school safety, while another survey found that the presence of law enforcement makes student feel less safe,” said Mitchell. “Reports of higher-than-usual incidents of trauma and anxiety remind us that students and school staff now face an unusual set of challenges as schools reopen.” 

Officials said that if school boards desire, after speaking with the Board of Supervisors and seeing the data in front of them, they can decide to go forward instead with using funds in other ways, by keeping some of their deputies but also taking advantage of other personnel and programs as well.  

The William S. Hart Union High School District, for instance, has an LASD contract for a handful of deputies that cover two to three schools each. The contract, in past years, has hovered around approximately $1 million.  

“Our young people need consistent access to trusted peers and adults who believe in prevention and positive interventions that promote youth development,” said Supervisor Kuehl. “I understand that many of our law enforcement officers do their very best, but really think about their training and their mission.” 

Hahn said she liked the idea of having mental health experts on campuses, and collecting more data, but said a school deputy her in her district, El Camino High School in Whittier, thwarted a potential school shooting after overhearing a student speaking about opening fire. They found weapons and high-capacity magazines at the student’s home, she said. 

“I know one instance where our school resource officer was able to help a child that was contemplating suicide,” said Barger, joining in with Hahn in opposition to the first two directives. “So, these resource officers really are vital, not only for the safety of the campus, but also in terms of supporting the student body.” 

District officials were unavailable for comment as of the publication of this story.  

After June 30, 2022, the new system is set to go into place following Tuesday’s votes. 

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