LOS ANGELES — Parents and staff of a South LA charter public school are growing increasingly concerned about what they call ongoing safety issues, ranging from shootings to prostitution, right outside of their TK through eighth grade campuses on South Figueroa Street.
“We need a resolution to stop the prostitution” is what a group of parents and staff chanted outside of City Hall in a protest to garner support and raise awareness about the issue.
A 6-year-old’s curiosity is endless, said Alexus Evans. Her son, Marcelino Lopez Jr. is wide-eyed as he walks to school.
But what he’s witnessing every morning is infuriating for his mother, who said as they wait in line for their KIPP Empower Academy campus to open at 6:30 a.m., they see half-naked women all the time.
Just across the street from the school, Evans said skimpily dressed, sometimes completely naked, women are walking up and down Figueroa Street, right outside the school.
But beyond that, the surrounding motels the women are often walking to are drug ridden and attract all types of crimes, including shootings, she said.
The parents of this school say they’ve been voicing their concerns about the Palms Motel next door for years, but the problem only continues to get worse.
Spectrum News tried many ways to contact the owner of the Palms Motel, but they declined to comment.
So while their kids went on a field trip, a group of parents and staff took their own bus to City Hall.
“What are we here to fight for? Our kids! The safety of our kids, you guys ready?” Evans said to the group over a megaphone.
The councilman who presides over their District 8, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, came down from his office to sympathize, saying this has been an issue for as long as he can remember.
“I grew up seeing prostitution on Figueroa,” Harris-Dawson said.
It’s why he said one of the first things he did when he got elected was help to launch a sex trafficking task force along Figueroa with LAPD, but so far, they’ve fallen short on addressing the issue.
“It went on a bit of a hiatus, where everything kind of broke up during the pandemic,” Harris-Dawson explained. “We want to be sure that’s back up and running and at full tilt, because everything has kind of returned to normal.”
He said the process to shut down prostitution in and around motels is ridiculously long, but pledged to the parents that his office will demand a hearing for the nuisance complaint that has already been filed.
The reality that nothing has been done after years of asking for a resolution is a frustration KIPP Empower Academy Principal Chinedu Udeh has a hard time putting into words.
“As a community, we have to take responsibility for all of our children. No matter where they live, their socioeconomic status or their racial identity,” Udeh said.
Evans said she’s struggling with the questions her 6-year-old is asking, far before he’s ready to understand the answers.
“That not only are there bullets flying across his head, but there’s prostitution in front of his face,” she said to the crowd. “To not be a product of his environment [while] being afraid of being shot.”
It’s a plea to protect the TK to 8th grade students from parents doing all they can to break the cycles in their community.
KIPP Public Schools operate 23 tuition-free and open-enrollment charter public schools in Southern California, educating more than 9,800 students.