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, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.Published 4:08 p.m. ET Nov. 6, 2017 | Updated 4:55 p.m. ET Nov. 6, 2017A complaint filed by the

Lee County NAACP alleges that minority students in the public school system are more likely to be disciplined and end up in the school-to-prison pipeline than their white peers.


And the local chapter believes the school board missed an opportunity to address this when its seven members stepped away from the NAACP’s plan to tweak its district boundaries, which was proposed in the hopes of getting a minority candidate elected.

The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on Sept. 15, and was amended last week to include more statistics of how white students compare academically and in discipline rates to their Hispanic and black peers.

“The majority of students in Lee County schools are students of color,” explained Shirley Chapman, chairwoman of the Lee NAACP's education committee, in a news statement released Monday. “And, sadly, students of color here are more likely than their white peers to be removed from the classroom, suspended, expelled, referred to law enforcement and forced out of school."


Chapman added: "Our school system is failing our children and we must do something about it now.”

The Lee County school district has not received the updated complaint, and offered no comments on it at this time.

More: Lee school board passes over NAACP plan for redistricting

More: Lee school board to look into NAACP boundary changes

What the complaint states

The NAACP used data from 2013 to outline their points in the complaint, comparing discipline and academic reports to the student population.

At the time, 45 percent of the kids enrolled in school were white, 35 percent were Hispanic and 15 percent were black.


According to the complaint, while black students represented the smallest chunk of the student enrollment, they were more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students, who were in the majority.

In addition to discipline, the group studied academic statistics, like the number of students promoted from one grade to the next, dropout and graduation rates, gifted enrollment and the achievement gap between minority students and those who are white.

For example, the 2013 data shows a 30-percentage point achievement gap between white and black students, with the difference between white and Hispanic kids differing by about 17 percent. 

What's next?

Following along with steps school districts in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties have implemented, the NAACP's complaint lists suggestions on how Lee County schools can improve. 

This includes:

  • Revising the student code of conduct to ensure students have "adequate due process" for discipline issues.
  • Add to training given to staff, teachers and principals about race.
  • Be more clear on the expectations for student behavior.
  • Diversify the school board and its advisory committees.
  • Review the differences that exist for students in the areas of academics and discipline, and then tweak the policies as needed.

NAACP members hope to work one-on-one with the school system’s top leaders to bring about change.

In Collier: NAACP files complaint against CCPS over School Board's decision to hold class on MLK Day

Also: Collier School Board upholds decision to hold class on MLK Day despite pushback from NAACP

For Chapman, who has her doctorate in education and spent more than 30 years in the field, the drive comes from the students.

“We are losing too many of our students,” she said, adding that the chapter is ready to meet with the superintendent and his staff to correct the issues they have found.

The work, Chapman added, needs to be start immediately, and one way to do this is by hiring a more diverse employee base, which includes support staff, teachers and school principals.

“I really do believe that if we work together with the district, that change can occur,” she said. “I really believe that, but it’s going to take working together.”

Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @NP_pstaik. 

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