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LAPD agrees to avoid ticketing tardy students on their way to school

April 14, 2011 |  5:05 pm

The Los Angeles Police Department has agreed to avoid ticketing tardy students for being truant if they are on their way to school, advocates for students announced Thursday.

The tickets, which can result in hundreds of dollars in fines and lost school time, are exactly the wrong approach for achieving better attendance, according to those who are involved.

Truancy and tardiness remain serious problems in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

City and school police issued more than 47,000 tickets from 2004 to 2009 -- 88% of them to African American and Latino students, who make up about 74% of students.

Among the changes:
• Truancy sweeps generally will not occur during the first hour of classes
• Officers will generally ask students if they have a legitimate explanation for not being in class before they write a ticket
• Police will be urged to make getting students to school a higher priority than ticketing them
• Police will no longer ticket on school grounds, where school authorities will be responsible instead for dealing with tardy students.

Parties included in the negotiations included Public Counsel, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the Community Rights Campaign and the Los Angeles Police Department. L.A. Unified was not part of the agreement, but talks are ongoing between activists and officials.

School board member Tamar Galatzan, a deputy city attorney, said she welcomed “any agreement between law enforcement, school officials and community groups that results in our students being in class, ready to learn, when the bell rings.”

She added: “The best way for students to avoid truancy tickets is to get to school -- and be in class -- on time."

-- Howard Blume

Photo: Students arrive for school just before the 8:30 a.m. start at Antelope Valley High School. Administrators say the later start time has cut tardiness. Credit: Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times