Chris Patricca facing civil rights complaint over planned K-8 school in Estero

Published: November 2, 2021 4:53 PM EDT
Updated: November 2, 2021 5:19 PM EDT

A controversy at The School District of Lee County is growing. A civil rights complaint was filed against a school board member for promoting schools in an affluent area.

The complaint targets board member Chris Patricca for discriminating against predominately ethnic areas.

This is not the first time this issue has come up. The issue surfaced in recent school board meetings with both board members and taxpayers having questioned whether the numbers back up a need for a $93-million K-8 school in Estero.

Now, this complaint demands Lee County schools pull the plug on the project.

The authors of the civil rights complaint believe Chris Patricca pushed for the planned K-8 school in Estero and its new location to gain endorsements and votes, not because Estero needed the school.

Mario Juarez, president of the Guatemala US-FL Chamber of Commerce, who helped write the complaint said, “show us the statistics, what they really have on their records, what amount of students do they have on here because see here, the minority, the low-income people they who really need this is schools to be built.”

Juarez said he believes the district and Patricca are discriminating against minority neighborhoods in the East Zone, which has a greater need for schools.

At an October school board meeting, Lee County School Board member Gwyn Gittens said that the need is clear by the number of portable classrooms in the east zone. “70% or 126, were in the East Zone. That was in February. We have not built anything to give us any additional seats. It’s kind of like, you know, saying Christmas is coming, and it never comes.”

But a district spokesperson says that those claims are not true. He pointed to the new Lehigh Acres middle school, renovations at several more schools and at least four more schools set to be built in the East Zone.

But Juarez is convinced he has got a case. “The evidence is there. That’s why we sent this letter.”

In order for the district to build new schools, it must show schools in the area have reached 117% capacity.

Gittens maintains none of the schools around the planned school in Estero have reached that threshold.

WINK News reached out to Chris Patricca for a comment and has not yet received a response.