October 03, 2016 Practice Points

Lodi Unified School District Settlement

By Nicole Scialabba

On August 24, 2016, the Lodi Unified School District and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) entered into a resolution agreement that would end the racially discriminatory, disproportionate impact its schools’ discipline policies had on African-American students over white students.

Amongst the OCR findings were that while the discipline policy was neutral on its face, it had a disproportionate impact on African-American students, because the district allowed individual schools to develop and impose different consequences for discipline incidents. As a result, there were district-wide disparities in discipline practices for African-American students versus white students.

In schools that had a higher percentage of African-American students, there were harsher penalties for discipline incidents, and the African-American students received disproportionately higher levels of discipline than white students. Specifically, the OCR found that African-American students were disproportionately represented to a significant degree at almost every level of discipline; in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, expulsion, and citation for every year that they analyzed.

The resolution agreement provides a list of items that the Lodi Unified School District must follow, including, employing a Positive School Climate Coordinator to coordinate implementation of the agreement for the duration of the agreement’s term; develop and implement an action plan approved by OCR to identify root causes for the racial disparities; revise its discipline policies and practices and training staff to ensure consistency; and ensure that the district collects and reports discipline data, reviews data regularly, and self-monitors. This list is not exhaustive—for additional information, see the resolution letter and the agreement.

Nicole Scialabba is a staff attorney for the Legal Services of Central New York in Syracuse, New York.

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