The Los Angeles Unified School Board has voted to end random searches of students with metal-detector wands.
The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the 4-3 vote will bring to an end a 26-year policy and came after an emotional discussion about how to keep the district’s 600-plus campuses safe in an era of recurrent gun violence.
The board also directed Superintendent Austin Beutner to work with community groups to develop an alternative.
Civil rights advocates have long arguedthat the random searches distract from instruction time and make young people in schools feel like criminals.
"Administrative random searches are incredibly invasive, dehumanizing and communicate to students that they are viewed not as promising minds but as criminals,” Board Member Tyler Okeke said. “Los Angeles Unified must find alternatives to this practice that foster an inclusive, welcoming academic environment that values each student at every school."
The district’s wanding policy is carried out at all middle and high schools by campus administrators.
The district began requiring random metal-detector searches to look for weapons in the wake of an incident in 1992, when a gun hidden in a student’s backpack accidentally killed a 16-year-old at Fairfax High School.
Random searches were supposed to be carried out at various hours of the day in a “specific, unbiased pattern,” but opponents allege the searches tend to unfairly target students of color, especially black students.
A coalition of civil rights groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union formed a coalition in 2015 with United Teachers Los Angeles to oppose the policy.
Opponents of the searches say data given to them by the district shows that few if any guns are retrieved as a result of random searches. Others, however, argue that such numbers show the policy’s effectiveness as a deterrent.