LOS ANGELES — Even if she never makes it back to campus, Dorsey High School senior Sarah Djato is leaving her mark on the second largest school district in the country.
Between juggling college applications, classes, and exams, Djato was one of the students instrumental in a recent overhaul of campus police that will result in fewer cops on campuses and more money directed toward Black students.
Djato got involved with the group Students Deserve after a police officer used pepper spray to break up a fight on campus, inadvertently spraying innocent students. To Djato, it was the culmination of inequities she’d noticed between her mostly white middle school and mostly Black high school.
“They choose not to invest in us because they don’t see that we can be excellent,” Djato said.
In February, the group scored a major win when LAUSD’s school board agreed to cut $25 million from the Los Angeles School Police Department to fund a Black Student Achievement Plan. The money will pay for “climate coaches” to de-escalate potential conflicts and psychiatric social workers. Fifty-three schools have been identified as “targeted schools” for the plan, including Crenshaw, Dorsey, Fairfax, Gardena, Hamilton, Narbonne, Venice, and Westchester high schools.
The board also banned campus police form using pepper spray against students.
The cuts will result in the loss of 133 Los Angeles School Police Department positions, according to the union that represents officers, the L.A. School Police Officers Association.
“These drastic cuts and the removal of school police officers from our campus will slow response times when our children and staff need us the most,” the group’s board of directors said in a statement.
The group pointed to an independent survey that showed a majority of students, staff, and parents support keeping police on campus.
But Djato points to other data, that showed Black students accounted for 25% of arrests, citations, and dispersals on campus, while they only make up 10% of the overall student population.
“That should be enough for you to be like ‘OK, there’s a problem,’” she said.
Djato added that her generation — known as the “Zoomers” — is ready to change the world.
“I think I visualize it a lot, how I want our world to be,” Djato said.
She is not waiting for graduation to start.