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Posted by Chuck Olynyk on July 1, 2020 at 1:45 PM

Today is Wednesday, July 1, 2020. It’s Canada Day, and I’ve officially been retired for one year. Or a year and a Day since it is a leap year. (I’m writing the day of the week because it’s what I used to do and because, as one of my fellow retirees has pointed out, “Hell, Chuck, you and I don’t even remember what day of the week it is.” I also looked: the last time I posted anything here, back when I was fighting the fight against pseudo-education reformers and robber barons was Wednesday, November 23, 2016. I used to keep count of how many days P.F. or Post-Fremont, when I left John C. Fremont High School in LAUSD after reconstitution and continued my blogging and antagonizing authority at Theodore Roosevelt High School in the same district.

To quote Captain Mal in “Firefly,” I’m feeling truthsome.

An unpopular opinion is coming. My conservative friends mock me for being a "flaming liberal," or repost and sneer. My more liberal friends think I'm a fascist on certain issues. But I guess I'm used to speaking my mind and so I shall again.

The LAUSD cut their school police budget by $25 million after student protests. I get it. There's a move towards restorative justice, which I can in part agree with.

But not completely.

My experiences with LAUSD school police have been almost all positive ones (I'll relate the negative one in this), even when they pointed guns at me that one time (that's a different story and not the negative one I'll retell at another time, after I've had my say).

My entire 32 years in the district were in tough, inner-city areas: 23 years in South L.A. (in my head, it's still Southcentral), and 9 years on the Eastside in Boyle Heights. I was grateful for their presence in those areas plagued by crime. I believed they kept the campuses safer.

 

If you worked at either Fremont or Roosevelt, you might recall bomb threats (Fremont specific) or lockdowns when we actually had intruders on campus (the most graphic one to me was the carjacker who tried to hide amongst the students in the gym at RHS and acted as if he was drawing a weapon when I knew I was powerless to do anything and the school police entered to save the day).

There was also the riot I was trying to help break up in the quad at Fremont, the only riot I experienced there in 16 years (the other one in '10 was really several kids trying to beat up one, with another defending him, and a few school police officers and I broke it up, so it doesn't count). In the middle of the riot, I remember the boys in blue showing up and one crouching down beside me. "I gotcha, Mr. O!" I looked over to see a former student wearing the helmet and gear, trying to reassure me that I was safe. Cue the bugle, as the cavalry rides to the rescue. (For those who know me well enough, this would be the time I’d reference science fiction such as the Klingon fleet decloaking and screaming into battle to save the Federation or Thor appearing in battle in “Infinity War” and Dr. Bruce Banner jubilantly yelling, “Oh, you guys are so screwed!”)

That's why I believe in the LAUSD school police. In every instance, I saw them behave as professionals. Courteous professionals, They were there to keep the campuses safe, to protect students and staff.

My only negative experience was when then-Superintendent Ramon Cortines, and later Dr. George McKenna III, when he was the mini-District Superintendent, confronted the teachers of Fremont High to tell them the school was being reconstituted; they chose to do so with school police officers flanking them and standing at every exit. But those were two isolated instances, initiated by frightened little men. (Can we say Lafayette Park and photo-op?)

There used to be searches for drugs. Searches were at random. My principal showed me how it was done: it had to be a randomly selected period. Then a randomly selected teacher. Then every 3rd or 5th student was called out, or sometimes the students and teacher had to leave the room and a drug-sniffing dog was brought in. Oddly enough (sarcasm sign here), drugs were found in the one time it happened in my room. The student admitted to it. Problem solved.

Flash forward to my couple of years: a chronic epidemic of vaping pens.

Flash forward to my final year of teaching: students frequently returning from the restroom in a somewhat altered state. One student rushed to get medical attention because he ate way too many edibles he’d received from another student.

And in that final year: the leadership council on my campus voting to pilot a program against random searches of students, the same year there were more threats against teachers. Including me.

I do not know the effect of $25 million will have on the school police. What I do know, as I watched restorative justice become more the norm is that I felt less safe in my last year of teaching.

And while I’m thankful I’m not in those conditions of increasing danger, and while this will be the final year of students I personally knew and taught being in LAUSD schools, I fear for my former colleagues and for those students I shall never meet.

I cannot do anything or be an agent for change. But I can put my words and thoughts and suggestions out there and, perhaps, give others an angle they didn’t see.

Looks like I’m back.

 

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-06-30/lausd-unified-budget-school-police-reopening


 

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