LAUSD celebrates 10 years of restorative justice, but progress remains uneven

This May, the Los Angeles Unified School District celebrated the 10th anniversary of the School Climate Bill of Rights — a resolution that halted suspensions for willful defiance and brought restorative justice practices into classrooms.

Social justice advocates and school board members applauded the nearly 80% reduction in overall suspensions in LAUSD since the new policy passed.

“The best thing that has happened is that LA Unified is seeing students for students, and that includes their boundary-pushing, their risk-taking, their lesson-learning — you know, behaviors that come with growth and development,” said school board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin, who authored May’s commemorative resolution.

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Blacks, Latinos have been arrested at 'disproportionate rate' in L.A., report finds

A new analysis of Los Angeles Police Department data released this week by L.A. City Controller Kenneth Mejia shows that Latino and Black people were arrested at a "disproportionate rate" between 2019 to 2022.

Black people, who make up 8% of the county’s population, accounted for 27% of all arrests; and Latinos, who account for almost half (48%) of the Los Angeles County, made up 51% of all arrests.

Both demographics, when combined, make up 56% of the county's population and yet totaled more than two-thirds of all arrests at 78.26%, according to the report. White people, which make up 29% of the county, ranked third in the total number of arrests at 16%.

Henry Perez, the executive director of the nonprofit InnerCity Struggle, said the report is alarming but not surprising. Perez said the organization, which works to organize communities in L.A.'s Eastside neighborhoods to address violence and crime, has historically experienced overpolicing.

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LAUSD graduates reflect on challenges in their K-12 education

In a roundtable event hosted by Equity Alliance for LA’s Kids, recent LAUSD graduates reflected on their navigation of an often difficult, educational experience.

Graduates from East LA and South LA high schools, identified by the Student Equity Needs Index (SENI) as some of the highest concentrations of high-need schools, shared their challenges from policing to housing, while also highlighting their support systems in and outside school.

Equity Alliance for LA’s Kids is composed of local community and in-district organizations such as Catalyst California, Community Coalition, InnerCity Struggle and the Partnership for LA Schools, organizations that these graduates are part of.

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Henry Perez expects to build on the legacy of Inner City Struggle

In 2005, Maria Ruiz was going through a dire situation: her three sons were struggling in school, and she had no idea where to find help. That’s when she met Henry Perez, who had just been appointed as coordinator for the Familias Unidas program at InnerCity Struggle (ICS).

“I felt hopeless because I felt that there was nothing I could do to help my children, and as a mother that is one of the worst feelings,” said Ruiz, a longtime resident of Boyle Heights. “I met Henry at a workshop he brought to Hollenbeck [Middle School] where my oldest was going, and he changed all of our lives.”

She says Perez helped her gain access to valuable resources to support her children, with extra attention to her middle child who, as someone in the Autism spectrum, struggled to find adequate support in school. Seeing what ICS could do for her family, Ruiz decided to join the Familias Unidas team to fight for more dedicated support for struggling students in LAUSD.

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These high school grads are the COVID Class of 2023 and have the stories to prove it

It had only been a week since graduation and these teenagers were giddy. Summer sprawled out in front of them. College is just a few months away — a future some still can’t believe will be theirs.

One will be leaving soon to take prep classes at UC Berkeley. Another has an apprenticeship at a Bank of America branch. One dreams of being a congresswoman. But this recent afternoon was not so much about the future as it was about the past.

These students, who attended Los Angeles Unified schools in the Eastside and South Los Angeles, see themselves as the COVID class of 2023. They were first-year high school students when the pandemic forced campus closures in March 2020. Now, when so many have moved on to normalcy, these students explained how the pandemic left a transformative mark on their high school years.

They returned to the classroom as juniors, lives upended, academics in tatters and the pandemic’s emotional fallout palpable.

Gathering at InnerCity Struggle, a nonprofit in Boyle Heights, they described an urgent resilience, a compulsion toward a better future that carried them through waves of grief, the rebuilding of relationships and the stress of college applications. Some talked of their experiences with food insecurity, housing instability, increased anxiety and depression. All of them mentioned the teachers, family and friends who carried them through their four years.

Here are some of their reflections.

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Most COVID-19 Tenant Protections Have Ended. What Comes Next Is Unclear For Many LA Renters

For more than three years, L.A. County’s COVID-19 tenant protections helped prevent evictions. These protections expired at the end of March, but some Angelenos are still struggling to pay rent.

The end of the pandemic-era protections also means that renters who owe money to their landlords will have to pay it back. Some tenants are thousands of dollars in debt, and advocates fear that many of them could become unhoused.

Earlier this week, staff members and volunteers at InnerCity Struggle, a nonprofit in Boyle Heights, went door knocking to alert community members about the changes — and to inform them about their rights.

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LA’s COVID-19 Tenant Protections Have Expired. To Ensure Renters Know Their Rights, A Nonprofit Is Spreading The Word Door To Door

L.A. County’s COVID-19 tenant protections have expired, meaning renters can no longer put off making monthly payments due to pandemic-related harms. Tenants who are behind on rent will also have to pay back what they owe, though not all at once.

To help spread the word, tenant advocates throughout the region are turning to social media and hosting workshops. And at least one local nonprofit is making house calls: staff members and volunteers at InnerCity Struggle will go door-to-door in Boyle Heights, East L.A., El Sereno and Lincoln Heights on Monday, targeting streets with apartment buildings.

“It's a really critical time for [renters] to be informed,” said Daniel Jiménez, director of community organizing at the nonprofit. “We're walking the community to ensure that [residents] have the knowledge and resources they need.”

Community walks are a routine part of InnerCity Struggle, but they’re normally conducted ahead of election season to encourage voters to cast their ballots. This time around, the nonprofit is operating under a different sense of urgency.

One of Jiménez’s chief concerns is helping renters who took in extra roommates or pets amid the pandemic understand the current rules.

In the city of L.A., unauthorized roommates and pets will be allowed to remain in place until Jan. 31, 2024. But in the rest of L.A. County, they’re no longer allowed. Jiménez fears this could lead to confusion among renters — and potential evictions.

Aside from sharing information about the COVID-19 renter protections, the staff members and volunteers at InnerCity Struggle will distribute pamphlets with details on where to go to find support with other issues, including free legal counsel for anyone facing an eviction or landlord harassment.

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Los Angeles Schools Strike: Classes Called Off for 420,000 Students

LOS ANGELES — As rain pummeled the sidewalks and wind bent back umbrellas on Tuesday morning, Bartui Merchain, a pool clerk, arrived at her job at a recreation center, her children in tow.

She had left her 14-year-old son at home, but her workplace east of downtown Los Angeles suddenly had become an impromptu child supervision site for Mindy, 9, and Israel, 8.

Ms. Merchain, 36, had learned only the day before that school employees and teachers were going on a three-day strike, facing off against administrators in the nation’s second-largest school district. It would mean no classes for the district’s more than 420,000 students — news that many children seemed to greet with glee, though a number of parents felt blindsided.

“My son told me, ‘There’s no school Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,’” Ms. Merchain said. “This really caught us off guard. Definitely. It’s not something that they prepared us for, like, for two weeks. They just straight up dropped it like a bomb.”

Across Los Angeles, the normal school week gave way to disruption on Tuesday. Children tagged along with parents, were sent to recreation centers or stayed with relatives. Teachers and school employees hit the streets, where they hoisted signs of outrage and chanted for better pay and working conditions.

The strike began on Tuesday morning with bus drivers walking a picket line outside a Los Angeles Unified School District lot where they normally would be starting their routes. The union that represents 30,000 teachers’ assistants, bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers is seeking a 30 percent pay increase, and union leaders say their members are paid not much more than the minimum wage as living costs surge in Southern California.

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As COVID-19 Protections End, LA Renters And Landlords Brace For Possible Eviction Wave

Lilian Pacheco and her family have lived in a two-bedroom home in South L.A. for nine years. Until 2020, her husband worked in construction. She worked as a homemaker, looking after their four children.

The pandemic hit and upended the family’s stability. Pacheco’s husband contracted the virus in December 2020 and was hospitalized — it took months for him to recover. As a result, he lost his job. Now he works as a fruit and vegetable vendor, and Pacheco works part-time cleaning a movie theater. But three years after COVID-19 first struck the region, they’ve yet to return to their pre-pandemic income levels.

To get by, the family has relied on COVID-19 renter protections and rental assistance programs to help keep a roof over their heads. Those protections are set to expire Friday.

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Evictions rise, tenants scramble for help as LA County protections expire

This story has been updated to reflect the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors vote to not extend its tenant protections.

Irma Cervantes could barely afford the $750 monthly rent for the converted garage apartment she lives in with her children in East Los Angeles when she worked full time at a laundromat.

When the pandemic shut down non-essential businesses, Cervantes was out of a job. Then she got sick with long COVID-19. 

Now she owes 10 months rent, she said, and is trying to pay it down. Her three children, ages 19 to 23, are helping by working part-time jobs. 

Her landlord has increased demands for payment and wants her out, Cervantes said. And on March 31, L.A. County’s tenant eviction protections are set to expire. 

“I’m left thinking, what will happen when there aren’t any protections,” Cervantes said. “What will I do with my kids? We can’t pay $1,600 rent.”

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