During one school day this week, Los Angeles Unified grappled with three emergencies: a double stabbing outside a high school, multiple suspected fentanyl overdoses at a middle school and a traffic collision outside an elementary school that badly injured a child.
The Monday violence and trauma was so alarming that it prompted a Tuesday morning phone call between Mayor Karen Bass and L.A. schools Supt. Alberto Carvalho; the two pledged to work together to confront what feels to many parents like a school-safety crisis.
The two leaders identified key safety concerns to address urgently: traffic, violence, drugs.
“The mayor and I agree that these are the three main causes — right now in our school system, in our community — that are putting young lives at risk,” Carvalho said.
In a statement, Bass spoke in similar terms: “Supt. Carvalho and I spoke today about strategies to keep our teachers, students and faculty safe and together we will host convenings of stakeholders and community members focusing on safety in and around our schools.”
No students died Monday; the teenage stabbing victims and the boy hit by a car have been hospitalized.
But this school year at least two students and a parent have died on or near schools: a teenage honors student stabbed outside Wilson High, a mother struck by a car outside Hancock Park Elementary and a fentanyl overdose at Bernstein High. Multiple campuses have called paramedics and transported students to hospitals who were believed to have consumed marijuana edibles or other drugs. Narcan, the overdose antidote, has been administered 26 times in more serious drug incidents. Fights have erupted on numerous campuses.
Carvalho said the mayor has “committed to meeting and bringing together a number of individuals that have relevant expertise, jurisdiction, power and influence.” Participants would include community-based and faith-based organizations and “safety and security entities.”
“We are going to line up our calendars [and] invite the most impactful, relevant entities from the community to help us solve these problems,” he said.
The immediate response was familiar, but somewhat limited: The district temporarily provided extra counselors at affected schools and extra police patrols.
More security cameras
Carvalho said he would move to install cameras facing out from campus — as so many incidents are happening just beyond school grounds. Such cameras could gather evidence and perhaps act as a deterrent.
Cameras have increasingly emerged as a safety measure in L.A. Unified. In the wake of the 2022 Uvalde, Texas, school shooting — which killed 19 children and two teachers — Carvalho said that L.A. Unified quickly began installing cameras in hallways and areas where people congregate inside schools. There already had been efforts to place cameras at many entrances. Some cameras mainly screen visitors.
But reaction to installing more cameras is mixed.
“Who mans the cameras?” posted parent Kris Cabby in the Facebook group Parents Supporting Teachers. “We don’t have staff to sit and monitor, and school isn’t a prison — so wouldn’t that just be to review after an incident?”
“Cameras are a Band-Aid solution,” said parent Jenna Siegel Schwartz, co-founder of the site. “Our schools need mental health support from the city and county. They need consistent programs in schools, vetted and approved by people working in schools, that promote social emotional well being.”
Members in the “Our Voice” parents group “have BEGGED their LAUSD schools for security cameras and have been told by school admin that these are not allowed,” said group coordinator Evelyn Aleman. “Parents don’t feel that schools are safe nor that progress is being made on this issue. … Parents are being told that they have to contact the city regarding traffic safety issues, and they are also being told that school police [are] only for patrolling outside of school campuses.”
The district’s revamped comprehensive safety plan, still in development, acknowledges the complexity and nuance of safety — and Carvalho alluded to that Tuesday.
“Sometimes the threat is not necessarily what we believe it to be,” Carvalho said. “A car is a threat in our community to children. A knife is a threat. A firearm is a threat. Drugs are a threat. Mental illness is a threat. And we see all of those with a disproportionate presence in certain ZIP Codes more than others.”
The resources that must be deployed — mental health support, law enforcement, counseling — will vary from place to place, he added.
Carvalho also stated strongly that schools remain the safest places for children to be.
Still, Monday provided a grim checklist of the safety concerns.
Traffic death and injuries
A boy crossing the street near Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary in Watts was struck by a car and needs hip surgery. This happened a week after a speeding truck struck a 35-year-old woman and her 6-year-old daughter in a crosswalk outside Hancock Park Elementary. The mother died and the child is “fighting for her life,” according to Carvalho.
Last week, a vehicle struck a middle school student who was on the perimeter of an elementary school. And on Tuesday morning a Fairfax High student walking to a bus stop near his house — to commute to school — was struck by a vehicle and hospitalized.
“Too many kids, almost on a weekly basis, are struck by vehicles as they wait at a school bus stop, as they’re crossing the street, near a school accompanied by their parents on a crosswalk,” Carvalho said. “It is unacceptable. In front of our schools, there are cars that literally drag race and pull doughnuts — unacceptable.”
He suggested more speed bumps, more patrols, more blinking lights for school zones, more enforcement.
Midmorning Monday brought an emergency of a different sort at Cochran Middle School in Arlington Heights. Three children suffered from an apparent overdose or drug poisoning. School personnel quickly applied Narcan and the children appeared to recover substantially, although they were taken to a hospital as a precaution.
Narcan works only to reverse the effects of opioids, so officials suspect the children ingested a substance that contained fentanyl, which can be deadly in minuscule amounts if an overdose is not quickly counteracted.
The district made Narcan available at all schools and with all school police patrols in the wake of the fentanyl-caused death of a 15-year-old at Bernstein High in Hollywood last September.
Arrest in high school stabbing
The after-school stabbing just outside L.A. High, in Mid-Wilshire, sent a 15-year-old and 16-year-old to the hospital, where they were listed in serious condition Tuesday. At least one of the victims was a student at the school. The attackers do not appear to be students at the school.
Police detained two teens and an adult for questioning and later arrested one of the teens, officials said. As many as 10 people were involved in the attack, L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore said at the Police Commission.
The victims have wounds to the upper back, right arm and right leg, according to Moore.
Just before the attack, about 10 people emerged from two cars, a black Toyota and a red Cadillac, which have since been found, Moore said. A 17-year-old who was detained was found with a concealed gun, Moore said. Police also recovered two knives and two additional handguns, he said.
School seemed mostly back to normal at L.A. High on Tuesday. Two Los Angeles school police cars idled near Los Angeles High Memorial Park on an “extra patrol,” as one officer put it.
Administrators announced that counseling was available.
Students interviewed outside the campus said the attack was out of character for the school, but some wished for additional security on a regular basis.
“They had blocked off this entire corner and there were like 12 cop cars. I was kind of freaked out,” said Kayle Jimenez, a sophomore who was getting out from an after-school program just after the attack occurred.
Kayle said that the school should beef up security, and add additional cameras pointing outward as well as having more cop cars outside campus.
Ruby Padilla, a senior, disagreed, saying that the school is generally safe and the stabbing was an anomaly.
“It never really happens over here,” she said. “It’s a nice area.”
Times staff writers Libor Jany, Emily Alpert Reyes and Julia Wick contributed to this report.