California Department of Justice, Stockton Unified School District Enter into Agreement to Address Discriminatory Treatment of Minority Students and Students with Disabilities
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) has entered into a settlement with the Stockton Unified School District (District) and its police department to address system-wide violations of civil and constitutional rights of African American and Latino students and students with disabilities. The agreement announced today resolves a comprehensive investigation conducted by the DOJ into the law enforcement referral practices of the District and its police department and requires five years of ongoing monitoring.
“One of the most critical tasks of the California Department of Justice is to protect the rights of our children to be free from mistreatment, especially in our schools,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Today’s agreement will require the Stockton school district to take important steps to address and remedy civil rights violations committed against African American and Latino students in the administration of discipline. Our children, especially those with a disability, have a right to know that they will be treated equally in school and not unfairly diverted into the criminal justice system.”
The DOJ investigation found that the District’s policies and practices with respect to law enforcement referrals discriminated against Black and Latino students and students with disabilities. The investigation also identified certain unconstitutional search and seizure practices. These policies led to students being criminalized for minor misconduct, which can result in long-term negative consequences.
To address these system-wide legal concerns, DOJ and the District worked cooperatively to agree on an extensive five-year plan memorialized in a stipulated judgment that includes:
- Clear policies and procedures with respect to how and when school administrators refer students to law enforcement;
- Creation of a formal diversion program to address minor school-based criminal offenses, aimed at minimizing arrest citations and bookings;
- Revision of policies and procedures relating to treatment of students with disabilities in order to prevent discrimination, including the hiring of a trained Disability Coordinator at the police department to ensure compliance with disability discrimination laws;
- Creation of a protocol for school site administrators to refer students who exhibit indicators of mental health needs instead of a referral to the police department, where appropriate;
- Training all officers on crisis intervention to handle calls that relate to students in mental health crisis or exhibiting behavior that may indicate mental health needs;
- Reforming use of force policies, procedures, and practices, including a comprehensive review process;
- Ensuring any searches or seizures conform with constitutional standards;
- Providing extensive training on the constitutional and civil rights of students, disability and special education laws, and elimination of bias;
- Tracking and analysis of all arrests and referrals to law enforcement from schools; and
- Creation of a community advisory committee.
Attorney General Becerra encourages those with information regarding suspected practices in violation of state or federal law in schools to report them to the Bureau of Children’s Justice in the California Department of Justice Civil Rights Enforcement Section, through the online complaint form located at https://oag.ca.gov/bcj/complaint, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.