The arsenal included grenade launchers, armored vehicles, and assault rifles.
John F. Kennedy High School in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Back in 2014, the Department of Defense gave the Los Angeles School Police Department grenade launchers, armored vehicles, and rifles in a controversial program that drew criticism from activists and civil rights groups. This month, the school district returned all its military-grade weapons to the Department of Defense.
The Los Angeles Times reports that, according to a letter the school district sent to activists Monday, the last of the weapons in question have been returned. This follows an announcement in September that the district would return its grenade launchers but keep one vehicle and 61 assault rifles. Now the L.A. School Police Department is back to carrying only standard weapons and equipment.
But this development is not enough to quell protests. Activists interrupted an L.A. Unified school board meeting Tuesday, demanding proof that all the weapons were returned, an apology, and a promise to cut all ties with the DOD. Eric Mann, the director of the civil rights group Labor/Community Strategy Center, also wants the school district to reduce its police force and weaponry, according to the Times.
The debate about armed police on school grounds was flamed by 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where local police used tear gas and other military-grade weapons against civilians. School officials say that armed guards are a necessary measure to prevent tragedies, especially after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In fact, the L.A. school district is only one of 22 across the country that has participated in the DOD program. But armed police also instill a sense of distrust and unsafety among students, which can inhibit their education.
There’s no simple answer to this issue, as there rarely is with any hot-button topic. But the L.A. school district has made clear that its priority is students’ safety, which in this case means not having armed guards potentially carrying grenade launchers and assault rifles. There have not been any reported incidents of school police needing to use the military weapons anyway, so maybe they’ll find a better use at the Pentagon.