More than 600,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students returned to class Tuesday after summer break and were greeted with enhanced security measures, new disciplinary rules and expanded health services.
The new safety programs follow in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December.
Besides a contingent of more than 400 sworn school officers, the district has allocated about $4.2 million to add nearly 1,000 campus security aides to help monitor elementary schools.
L.A. Unified’s more than 1,200 schools have emergency and first-aid supplies, including food and water and rescue equipment. Schools will conduct regular drills to prepare for different hazards, said Superintendent John Deasy.
Schools are also partnering with community organizations to help students travel safely to and from campus.
“Students must feel safe on campus to achieve their best in the classroom,” Deasy said. “This year, the district has extended successful policies and procedures and added others to help ensure the safety of our youth.”
Under new disciplinary policies, students will no longer be suspended for “willful defiance,” such as talking back in the classroom, but will face alternative punishment. Critics said previous policy disproportionately affected African American and Latino students.
Partnering with community healthcare providers, the district is also opening 15 new school-based health clinics that will offer medical and in some cases mental health services for students and their families.
The district is adopting a new curriculum to meet state learning standards. And a district college-prep policy will require students to pass more rigorous classes. In addition, L.A. Unified is planning to buy iPads for all students beginning this year at 47 campuses.
The Los Angeles district is the nation’s second-largest school system.