Inflating Test Scores in Los Angeles?

Natalie* is a smart and witty sophomore at Mission High in San Francisco. Despite her struggles with ulcers and depression, she tries to make it to school on time every day. But since Natalie commutes across town, taking two buses in the process, some days she is late for her 8:10 a.m. history class. Last time she walked into class 10 minutes late, her teacher Ms. Bowman nodded and smiled at her without interrupting the lecture.

If Natalie went to public school in Los Angeles, though, she might have been stopped by a police officer at the bus stop or near the school entrance. The police officer would question her about her tardiness, might search her bag, and would write up a ticket for $240. That's because until recently, the Los Angeles city and school police would do "sweeps" near schools and give out tickets to students who were late or not in class. The San Fernando Valley Sun reports that student Gustavo Fernandez was slapped with five truancy tickets from the LAPD during his senior year at Los Angles High School, and he now owes the city close to $2,000 in fines. Because of this debt, he can't get a driver's license. Los Angeles police issued more than 47,000 citations for high school students who are not in class from 2004 to 2009, according to the Los Angeles Times. Manuel Criollo, the lead organizer against this trend with the Labor and Strategy Community Center, says that increasing number of such citations are going to students who are actually on their way to school, but are running late for often legitimate reasons. Criollo and other advocates also noted that these tickets were issued primarily to students of color: 62 percent were issued to Latino students, 20 percent to Afrian-American and only 7 percent to white students.