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Because of rapidly increasing investment for prisons and decreasing funds devoted to education in California, the Labor/Community Strategy Center has been engaging in extensive student organizing within Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to address these issues. The campaign's theme is “Not Down with the Lockdown,” and the students’ slogan is “Hey, LAUSD, I am Pre-Job, Pre-Med, NOT PRE-PRISON.”

Although the Strategy Center is a well established organization in Los Angeles – associated most prominently with the Bus Riders’ Union – it has only recently begun to work in the schools. To date, the Strategy Center has devoted most of its efforts to two high schools within LAUSD – Cleveland High School and Westchester High School – though it intends to expand its work to five additional high schools in the near future and, eventually, the rest of the district. Currently, the Strategy Center runs two youth organizing academies, during summer and spring break, to recruit and train students and build consciousness around the impact of policies and practices that push students out of school and into the prison system.

Driven by the concerns of its youth, the Strategy Center developed four main goals within the broader framework of the issue. These include:

  • Severely restricting harsh and excessive discipline policies in schools;
  • Ensuring that students do not receive truancy tickets when they are merely tardy;
  • Creating an understandable and feasible method for youth to remove themselves from the state’s gang database; and
  • Limiting “school safety zones,” which allow the enhancement of criminal sentences if crimes are committed within 1000 feet of a school.

The Strategy Center’s youth have created and distributed incident forms, which ask fellow students about their experiences with disciplinary measures and searches and seizures within schools. Students have also created flyers depicting a day in the life of a student in LAUSD to share their experiences with others. The Strategy Center is also in the process of obtaining data from LAUSD, the school police, and the city’s police department through public records requests.

During June - August 2009, the youth analyzed the grassroots research they had conducted and produced their results in documents called, Voices from the Youth, and compared the student experience with the rules and regulations of the police department to show how the two do not coincide. On August 18, 2009, the Strategy Center and youth held a press conference and unveiled the following demands:

  • Decriminalize truancy and tardiness;
  • Enforce stricter accountability and restriction on the use of force by the LAPSD;
  • Decriminalize student discipline;
  • Create an Office of Equal Protection where students can file complaints; and
  • Give more resources and programs to parents and students rather than citations and handcuffs.

Day in Life Flyer
No to Pre-Prison Flyer
Incident Form
FOIA Request
Mobilization Flyer in Spanish and English
Survey Results: Voices from the Youth, part one
Survey Results: Voices from the Youth, part two  
Student Experience vs. LASPD Manual
August 18, 2009 Press Release

For more information, contact:
Damon Azali
Lead Organizer, Community Rights Campaign
Labor/Community Strategy Center
3780 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1200
Los Angeles, CA 90010
T: 213-387-2800
[email protected]