Student petition condemns “unethical” wellness checks
USC graduate student Kayla Love and her fiancé, Khari Jones Jr., welcomed their daughter on June 27 after an emergency home birth. After returning from the hospital later that night, the couple was surprised with the arrival of a social worker and 10 Los Angeles Police Department and Department of Public Safety officers at their on-campus family housing unit.
According to the couple, the officers claimed they were conducting a wellness check but did not provide a reason at the time. The check escalated as the officers drew their guns in the couple’s apartment. In the following days and weeks, the incident drew media attention as Love and Jones spoke out about the unjust breach of privacy they said the check and subsequent checks caused.
The Black Student Assembly released a statement Oct. 20 about Love and her family having to vacate the unit under eviction threats. The statement also indicated Love had been pressured to leave her doctoral program at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. BSA shared a petition started by the family, tagged with #StandForLoveJones, that calls for an end to the “retaliation and unethical treatment” by terminating all parties involved in endangering them, as well as providing reasonable supportive measures such as compensation and removal of academic holds.
In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Love and Jones said they visited the hospital after the home birth, which concluded in with the newborn’s successful medical treatment and evaluation. The couple declined for doctors to draw their daughter’s blood at the hospital, stating that they would prefer for their child to be seen by a private physician. Love said she is very particular about the way that blood is drawn, so she wanted to ensure that everything was done properly through her provider.
After Love and Jones declined medical evaluation further than basic height and weight checks, Jones said the doctor contacted risk management, who sent three sheriffs to the hospital to confront the couple. According to Jones, this encounter didn’t go any further, as the family left promptly after of the sheriffs’ arrival.
“All I did was pick my daughter up and we walked away,” Jones said. “I know my rights and also just the history of [officers] using their guns. I don’t see why they felt the need to surround me while I have my daughter in my hands.”
For the wellness check at the couple’s apartment later that night, Love said the social worker, with 10 officers in possession of guns behind her, attempted to enter the unit despite Jones’ resistance.
“[Jones was] explaining to [the social worker] that I had a medical document that said I’m not to make any personal or business decisions within the next 24 hours,” Love said. “What I need to be doing right now is getting rest.”
Despite their explanations, Love said the officers eventually “forced their way in,” subsequently taking Jones’ cell phone away and detaining him by moving him to a separate room of the unit, away from Love. The social worker then asked Love to answer a set of questions, which she refused to do.
“The officers were saying, ‘Well if you answer these questions, we can all go home.’ Like, you’re not convincing me to answer something if you don’t have a reason for why you’re here,” Love said.
The petition started by Love and Jones mentioned how the officers threatened Jones during the check while he was holding his child. The couple “[is] taking legal action and petitioning against all parties involved in multiple unethical wellness checks,” read the petition.
In a statement issued on July 15, the LAPD wrote that only Jones was faced with weapons during the encounter. The statement read that “the male adult was briefly detained” but Love and the baby “were not in the same room” as him.
Jones was let go after about an hour, Love said, and the officers left soon after. However, the couple said their interactions with DPS and the LAPD about their child didn’t end there. Officers came a total of four times for these checks, which Jones said happened because DPS allowed them to do so.
“DPS doesn’t actually protect the wellbeing of their students,” Jones said. “They basically tell us that if LAPD does come back, [they] will allow them to stay.”
Love said the residential assistant told her and Jones that the repeated officer interactions at their family housing unit were grounds for eviction. The couple was eventually issued an eviction notice: Not because of officer presence, but because they hadn’t paid for the unit. Love said she was put in a situation where she was trying to pay for housing while relocating and she could not afford to do both.
“[USC Housing Director Christopher Posiglione and Student Affairs Vice President Winston Crisp] put me in a situation where I’m trying to pay for housing and we’re also trying to relocate and can’t afford to do both,” Love said.
Love said she was restricted from enrolling in her program, which meant she was unable to receive the graduate student stipend that she would use to pay for housing. After reaching out to Student Affairs to see if any emergency funds were available to help support her family, Love said she could only be offered counseling.
The University wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan that while it is “unable to share any details about her situation or the university’s response due to student privacy laws,” the University is “deeply concerned when any student experiences any kind of trauma.”
The statement directed students to private and confidential support resources, including Student Equity and Inclusion Programs and Counseling and Mental Health.
Since the incident, the couple has continued to push for reform within DPS and the medical industry through their petition.
“Many of us are tired of the destruction of families and our health through the force of unnecessary treatment, medical kidnapping and the limited justice, if any,” their petition read.
The petition also calls for the “appropriate termination of all parties involved in endangering Kayla Love, Khari Jones, and their daughter Fari Love-Jones,” and advocates for compensation for the couple and the removal of academic holds and fees presently facing Love. Additionally, the couple said they want USC to better protect its students by making a change in the way that wellness checks are conducted.
“That really was a life or death situation,” Love said. “Wellness checks do not need to be performed in that manner and USC needs to be held accountable.”
The University wrote in its statement to the Daily Trojan that it is aware of the issues raised by Love and her family about her experience with the LAPD and the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services but did not provide further comment.
“Those governmental agencies operate totally separately from USC, so we are unable to talk about whatever decisions they made according to their policies and procedures,” the University’s statement read.
DPS did not respond to the Daily Trojan in time for publication.