School Districts are Cheating Students to Fund Law Enforcement

We have uncovered rampant and illegal misspending by school districts on law enforcement throughout Southern California. In a report released on March 5, 2020, titled “Our Right to Resources: School Districts are Cheating Students to Fund Law Enforcement,” 56 districts were found to have illegally diverted money intended for English learners, foster youth, and low-income students towards police, security guards or other hardening measures such as surveillance equipment.

These actions violate the state’s education funding law and only further criminalize high-need students, and students of color, especially Black students. Altogether, more than 40% of the 136 districts examined spent on school police or security, robbing over 1 million high-need students of tens of millions of dollars of services.

The report is co-authored by Public Advocates, the ACLU of California, Gente Organizada, and the Pomona Students Union.


See which Southern California districts are spending illegally on law enforcement


In 2019, youth leaders at Gente Organizada discovered that the Pomona Unified School district was illegally spending funds reserved for foster youth, English learners, and low-income students on school police and security.  Outraged, the students organized and ran a campaign to stop it.  After months of advocacy, they ultimately convinced their district to stop spending those funds on law enforcement and to reinvest them instead in additional counselors.

Concerned about how common such illegal spending might be, Gente Organizada, Public Advocates, and the ACLU of California launched an investigation looking at how all 136 school districts in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties were spending their funds.  The study uncovered a disturbing trend: more than 40% of the school districts were illegally spending funds meant for high-need students on law enforcement or other school hardening measures, costing more than a million high-need California students their right to tens of millions of dollars in positive supports and services.


This report examines the true cost of such illegal spending, including the harmful impacts the presence of law enforcement in schools has on high-need students and students of color.  The report also proposes alternative, evidence-based solutions that effectively support high-need students, such as school-based health and mental health resources (e.g., school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, and school nurses), restorative justice programs, and positive behavior interventions and supports.

For more information, contact PA Communications Director Sumeet Bal at

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