Decade Old Issue
Schools have been searching their students with metal detectors for at least the last 20 years. They justify this by claiming that it is for "school safety." They cite past incidents like in Columbine. In Los Angeles, about six years ago, a student dropped his backpack and a gun he had in his bag, which he carried to protect himself on the way to and from school, accidentally went off and injured another student. Along with other zero tolerance policies, LAUSD now requires daily random metal detector searches of all students grades 6-12.
Some may think that this is a good thing because it may prevent students from bringing weapons on campus and repeat another catastrophe such as Columbine. But what we don’t see is the surrounding neighborhoods these children have been raised in. Most adults at schools have no idea what happens to young people out of school. Today, students often have to travel much farther to get to school. People from different neighborhoods may have to cross rival gang territory to get to school. Sometimes the area just isn't safe for them to be walking to and from school. Why don’t concerned adults do something about the violence in the neighborhoods and actually protect young people instead of criminalizing them for trying to protect themselves from circumstances they did not create?
And what about the tragedy at Columbine? There were metal detectors and armed security guards there to begin with. None of this prevented the tragedy from happening. The two young men, who were themselves bullied, were repeatedly ignored by their own counselors, teachers, and peers. In the aftermath, the experts determined that the metal detectors should be removed and more attention should be paid to students’ emotional and psychological well-being.
At the same time Columbine and other more rural, largely white middle-class schools were removing their metal detectors, students of color in low-income urban communities started getting searched with metal detectors, even when there have been no incidents of intentional shootings in their schools. According to the government, Black and Brown students are 12 times more likely to be searched and low-income students are 13 times more likely to be searched than their peers. After more than 20 years of metal detector searching in schools, there is still no evidence whatsoever that these searches deter students from bringing weapons or decrease violence. There is, however, substantial research that these practices make students feel less safe and harm them psychologically.
Students and their allies are challenging this policy in LAUSD. We have filed a school climate complaint with the district, protested at their headquarters, and have been actively organizing with American Civil Liberties Union, Public Counsel, Youth Justice Coalition, United Teachers of Los Angeles, Students Deserve, Black Lives Matter LA, Street Poets, and many others. We have been fighting for the elimination of this policy and to bring back real caregivers who will mentor and nurture us because schools should be like our second homes, not like prisons. Recently, we received a “Local Heroes Award” from Common Peace and Agape International Spiritual Center for our commitment to nonviolence in our struggle. We are grateful for the support of all our friends, family, peers, brothers, sisters, and everybody who has been active along side us.
Join our campaign! Sign our petition to end random searches in LA schools.
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