FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Lee County chapter of the NAACP signed an agreement with the Lee County School District Tuesday. It included recommendations to address the outcomes we see in schools, and those differences often break down by race.
After ten years of hard work, local NAACP president James Muwakeel says he's relieved. "For the school district to step up and take ownership and responsibility, and basically let us know, ‘hey, we don't have to go to court, we can settle this out of court,’ we think is great."
To address the issues of racial inequality in schools across Lee County, the NAACP signed an agreement with the district which focuses on eliminating racial and socioeconomic differences in local schools.
This comes almost a year after the NAACP filed a civil rights complaint against the district, saying students of color in Lee County were more likely to be suspended, expelled, or more disciplined than other white students.
"Students, often times, do not agree with the severity of the discipline, and they have had no type of outlet. Now they do," says Muwakeel.
"Out of school suspensions and expulsions don't solve the problem. They only put them out into the community," says Mary Fischer, District One Representative for Lee County Schools.
The NAACP says the agreement signed Tuesday was ten years in the making. But after the official complaint was filed last year, superintendent Gregory Adkins says it gave them new energy to get it all figured out.
"I want to see us improve our proficiency for our students. I also want to see us reduce incidence of discipline district wide. And so therefore, I think this agreement works towards all those ends," says Adkins.
But one community member says he doesn't completely agree. "I don't think this agreement is going to all of the sudden make students graduate at a higher rate. I don't think this agreement is going to stop minority students from having police called on them because they get in a fist fight at school," says Anthony Thomas.
He says if the principal is still in charge of deciding how to discipline his or her students, that could be an issue. "It was disappointing because I don't believe the agreement went far enough. Our school district is about 55% minority student population, but if you look at the principalships in our district, overwhelmingly white and male."
He says there could be another solution. "I really think that that position should be reporting directly to the school board and they should make public reports."
The NAACP says both students and parents in Lee County were a part in making this agreement. One of their main goals with the new agreement is to avoid having education be taken off the table for students... Regardless of the disciplinary actions needed to be taken.