Weapons-Related Expulsion Cases Drop From 1992-93 Peak : Schools: Decline in L.A. district raises hope that campus violence may be falling.


The number of Los Angeles students recommended for expulsion for bringing guns and knives to school dropped last year, returning to the level reported before a dramatic jump in 1992-93.

But while the number of high-school and middle-school expulsion recommendations fell from the previous school year, the number for all offenses among elementary school students stayed the same in 1993-94, according to a review of expulsions in the Los Angeles Unified School District obtained Thursday by The Times.

The fall in the number of weapons-related expulsions has raised hopes that campus violence--and students’ fear of it--may be declining, district officials said.


The review shows that the number of students recommended for expulsion for all offenses, including weapons, drugs, vandalism, assault and other reasons, dropped to 800 from 936 the year before--a 15% reduction.

The numbers had climbed by a third in the previous half-dozen years, from 697 in 1986-87 to 936 in 1992-93. Weapon possessions continue to be the single most common reason for expulsion.

Among the report’s main findings:

* Of the 800 expulsion referrals by school principals throughout the system last year, 466 students were expelled or sent to alternative campuses for bringing guns, knives or other weapons to school, compared to 600 out of 936 in 1992-93.

* Expulsion referrals for elementary school students jumped from eight in 1986-87 to 54 in 1993-94. Most of those were students who carried knives or guns to school.

* More middle-school students--94--were expelled last year for bringing guns to school than were high school students, who accounted for 75 expulsions.

* The number of students who were kicked completely out of the school district--the so-called straight expulsions--increased significantly over the eight-year period, from 17 in 1986-87 to 243 in 1992-93, in large part because of stricter policy. That number fell to 166 in 1993-94.


* But most students whose principals recommended expulsion were transferred to alternative campuses within the district--a trend that has remained fairly constant during the eight years.

Commenting on the numbers of younger students carrying weapons to school, board President Mark Slavkin said, “I think this is part of a larger trend in society where you see younger and younger kids being arrested for brutal and heinous acts. It seems anecdotal that kids are being caught committing more serious offenses.”

And the escalating numbers of children who bring weapons and violence to school mirrors the troubles in their own communities, district officials said.

“It’s a reflection of what’s going on in society,” said Hector Madrigal, the district’s director of student discipline proceedings, who wrote the report. “Kids are acting up more seriously and administrators in turn are feeling the need to take stronger action.”

While the Board of Education strengthened its expulsion policy three times in as many years, the report shows that the majority of students whose principals recommend expulsion are transferred to a different campus rather than being expelled outright from the district.

The district’s expulsion policy requires students--regardless of their age--to be expelled for bringing firearms to school, even replica or toy guns. Students who are caught with knives or drugs typically are assigned to alternative campuses.


The report shows that 53 students were expelled from the district in 1986-87, when 92 students were caught with guns. But 166 students were expelled outright in 1993-94 when 191 students had guns on campus.

Not all students are expelled because some cases were dropped for a variety of reasons, including an expired time limit for expulsion. Other students either dropped out or went into custody for committing crimes.

When it comes to knives, student violations are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The report shows that 229 students were caught with knives in 1993-94, compared to 139 students in 1986-87.

Principals initially make the expulsion recommendations and a hearing is held with a district panel. Students are recommended for expulsion for bringing weapons or drugs to campus, for vandalism or for assaulting or threatening to assault either students or school staff members.

Ultimately, the school board reviews each expulsion referral and makes the final decision.

Board member Jeff Horton, who requested the expulsion data and who opposes expelling students under 16, said he believes the alternative programs often are the best places for these students, many of whom do not have previous discipline problems.

“We just put a kid out on the street with nothing to do . . . it’s just asking them to hang out with gang members or with kids who have dropped out,” Horton said. “It’s bad for the neighborhoods and it’s bad for the kids. I think we need to take more steps to reduce the problem.”


Board member Barbara Boudreaux said she believes the policy needs to be even tougher so that students caught with knives are expelled outright. “Knives, guns, firecrackers, any kind of weapons . . . should have expulsion attached to it,” Boudreaux said. “Guns are not the only weapons that can kill.”

School Discipline

The number of Los Angeles Unified School District students recommended for expulsion decreased this past school year, although the total remains significantly higher than seven years ago. Although many of the students were expelled because of weapons, other factors--such as drug use and vandalism--also contributed. And not all of the students expelled from their campuses are kicked out of school. Some are sent to continuation schools or they leave the campus before the matter is concluded.


RECOMMENDED GUNS AND OTHER YEAR EXPULSIONS KNIVES WEAPONS DRUGS 1986-87 697 231 99 236 1987-88 768 227 111 240 1988-89 759 274 162 207 1989-90 890 426 80 211 1990-91 889 434 80 181 1991-92 855 407 101 158 1992-93 936 542 58 190 1993-94* 800 420 46 237

* As of June, 1994

Source: Los Angeles Unified School District