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Students Who Misbehave on Buses to Get Reprieve PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia Sun Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 13 September 2012 05:30

Instead of Court Citations, it will be the Schools who Decide Punishment

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

Rosario López


Rosario López takes three buses everyday to go from home to school, and has seen teenagers misbehaving in all kinds of ways.

"You see them come in with food. Music is not really a problem, but you see them pushing against people," said the 18-yearold student.

There are other complaints. "When a group of teenagers go in, sometimes they get really loud. They have the music really loud and they start dancing," said Jessica Flores, 16. "They talk back to old people."

But the worst offense is smoking, said Evyn Marisol, 15.

"They go to the back and light up and it smells," she said.

All of these actions are punishable with a $250 citation. But this is about to change.

This week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authorities (METRO) and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced the launch of the new Transit Juvenile Diversion Program.

Under the new program, which starts in about a month, students will no longer be cited for their first minor infraction.

Instead, they will be taken to their respective school, where school officials will meet with their parents to determine their punishment.

This could be detention, homework, or litter/ graffiti removal in school, among others. Subsequent offenses on the bus will warrant citations, however.

"This helps us correct the problem in school instead of using punitive damages," said Sheriff Lee Baca, who noted the new approach allows for "immediate justice" since court appointments can be delayed for several weeks, and by then the student has forgotten all about the offense.

The previous approach also meant parents had to miss a day from work to attend court with their children.

"Instead of going to court, within three days the principal will meet with the parents and they will decide the punishment and try to correct the problem, Baca said. "It sounds simple, but sometimes the simpler solutions are the best solutions. The idea is to work with students first."

"We want to keep students, who may commit minor infractions, out of the courtroom and in the classroom," said LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy. "This program allows us to better achieve that goal, while enhancing student safety at the same time.

"So let's be clear: Pay your way and don't eat or drink on the bus. But as long as students are in school rather than the legal system, they can learn."

The program is trying to correct problematic behavior that results in thousands of citations for students every year.

In 2011, authorities reported 634 violations a month (a total of 7,622 a year). That figure has gone down to 587 a month this year (4,696 so far).

Those numbers not only affect court calendars but also taxpayers, who have to shell out some $7 million a year as a result of the citations, money that could be used to improve service, said Frank Alejandro, Chief of Operations for METRO.

"These things may seem minor, but if left unchecked, they can lead to more serious problems," Alejandro said. Adds Baca, "All we want is for you to pay your fare and conduct yourself in a respectable way."

Lopez, who's about to graduate from high school, said she supports the new policy. "I think it's fine because we don't get a ticket," she said. "This way, we have the opportunity to clear our image and we don't get a record."

To make sure all students know about the new policy, they will receive a copy when they apply for their discounted monthly student passes, according to METRO spokesman Jose Ubaldo.

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Last Updated on Monday, 17 September 2012 18:13