- The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will no longer use handheld metal detectors to conduct random searches on school campuses after July 2020, the district’s school board decided this week. Superintendent Austin Beutner now has a year to develop an alternative school safety plan that doesn’t include random searches.
- The resolution, however, does not affect searches by school police if there is reasonable suspicion and a request from a school official for a search, explained Sergeant Julie Spry with the Los Angeles School Police Department. “That hasn’t changed,” she said.
- The district’s random search policy, in grades 6-12, was one of several issues during United Teachers Los Angeles’ (UTLA) January strike against the district. As part of the contract agreement, a memorandum of understanding was developed in which 16 schools were selected for a pilot program that exempts them from “wanding” students and instead encourages using other measures to improve safety, according to district spokeswoman Barbara Jones.
The district last fall also launched a pilot in 14 schools in which random searches were reduced from daily to 10 per month, Jones said. But George J. McKenna III, one of two board members who voted against the resolution, said in a district press release that officials haven’t analyzed the current pilot thoroughly enough to determine if it’s effective.
The school board also approved a resolution requiring parents to sign a letter each year acknowledging their legal obligations to safely store firearms at home. Additionally, school personnel will be trained to spot the signs of gun violence.
Opponents of random searches say they are not effective at reducing crime, create a tense environment on campus and disrupt learning. "Administrative random searches are incredibly invasive, dehumanizing and communicate to students that they are viewed not as promising minds but as criminals,” Tyler Okeke, the student member of the board and a co-sponsor of the resolution, said in the district statement.
A 2016 study also showed schools with high percentages of students of color are more likely to use procedures that include random searches, security cameras and having armed officers on campus. The debates over whether to increase such measures or lean more toward adding counseling and mental health services for students have only intensified over the past year.
LAUSD Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson, who also voted against ending random searches, said that as a former principal, he supports wanding if attempts are made to keep it fair and nondiscriminatory. “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,” he said.
Other large districts, however, are implementing new search policies rather than ending them. Last fall, the Clark County School District in Nevada announced that it was beginning to conduct random searches of middle and high school students in response to an increase in guns confiscated from students.