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Parents react to Stockton School District's changing disciplinary rules

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called results of his investigation "troubling practices."

STOCKTON, Calif. — "It was just a horrible experience," Ronnica Gaines said.

Gaines says her son, Jahidi, acted out in school, even becoming violent when he was in a transitional kindergarten class in the Stockton Unified School District a few years ago.

"He doesn't like to be around a lot of children at the same time. So, he would have crying spells," Gaines said. "And, I'm steadily telling the teacher that he has a trauma. This is the reason. Not to give him an excuse, but to be a little more understanding."

Her son suffers from severe trauma. She says instead of getting an offer of help, she would be constantly called to take him home. Her complaints tie into what the State Department of Justice has investigated within the Stockton Unified School District.

From 2013-16, State Attorney General Xavier Becerra says his investigation "found troubling practices," including law enforcement discriminating against black and Latino students and students with disabilities.

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Becerra said his investigation revealed "a lack of clear policies within the Stockton Unified School District. Administrators often required police assistance with minor disciplinary problems."

"He didn't want to go to school," Glenda Sanchez said. "He would cry." 

Sanchez says her son in first grade would refuse to come in from recess because he wanted to keep playing.

"They called the cops on my [first grader] son," Sanchez said.

After the police were called two more times, her son was later diagnosed with ADHD.

As part of the agreement, the district agreed on an "extensive five-year plan" including: 

  • 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.

Sammy Nunez, who runs the organization San Joaquin Fathers and Families and advocated for change, says the district is already being proactive.

"I actually have to applaud the district right now and Superintendent John Deasy because he already had the foresight," Nunez said. "He was already working on some things. He's been very transparent and very much building bridges with the community."

Parents like Gaines hope other children like her son wont have to go through what he did.

"It's hard to have a positive experience if you can't even go to school everyday."

Copies of the proposed final judgment and complaint, as filed with the court, are available here and here.

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From the archives: 1989 Cleveland Elementary School shooting

It was a dark moment in Stockton history, remembered for its impact on the community with the lives of five students, none older than 10-years old, lost. ABC10 was there in 1989 to report on this tragic event.

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