African-American students make up only 15 percent of the population at Bear Creek and McNair high schools in Lodi, yet data from the U.S. Department of Education claimed they were suspended more often than other students in the 2013 to 2014 school year.
This week, the department announced the Lodi Unified School District has been ordered to change what the department called discriminatory practices.
"This does not come as a surprise to me,” community activist Lester Patrick told FOX40.
Patrick said he’s fielded numerous complaints from parents who claimed their children were punished unfairly, and he’s been working with Lodi educators to promote equality.
"I think that you see that they’re more apt to expel or suspend an African-American student,” Lester explained.
Along with the allegations, the U.S. Department of Education said they entered into an agreement with the Lodi Unified School District to change discipline policies. The school district issued a statement that read:
The district was ready to resolve this matter entirely over a year ago through a voluntary agreement. The Office of Civil Rights did not make any finding whatsoever that the district intentionally discriminated against students in disciplinary matters.
The department also outlined the agreement where the district will have to consult with experts to identify root causes for racial disparities, issue written guidance and provide training to staff regarding racial harassment.
The school district said they also hired a Positive School Climate Coordinator to ensure student safety and their educational success.
However, Patrick said the entire school environment needs to change so that the classroom will be a more positive experience for all.
"They’re there to educate all students. Not just some students,” he said.