Crime and dropouts down in Wake County schools but short-term suspensions up

Posted by T. Keung Hui on April 2, 2014 

UPDATE: The Wake County school system posted a press release Wednesday saying the district is “faring well in discipline, crime, and dropouts. The press release, which doesn’t mention the increase in short-term suspensions, focuses on how the district has the lowest crime rate and suspension rate for high school students of the state’s biggest districts.

New state reports released today on school crime, suspensions and expulsions and dropout rates from the 2012-13 school year show some mixed news for the Wake County school system.

On the plus side, school crime and violence are down in the state’s largest school system. Both the high school dropout rate and the number of long-term suspensions continued to drop.

But on the negative side, there was a decent-sized increase in the number of short-term suspensions and expulsions. All this data comes out at a time when the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is still investigating a complaint that charges Wake disproportionately suspends minority students.

What Wake will likely tout the most today is that the dropout rate improved to where only 1.95 percent of high school students dropped out in the 2012-13 school year. That’s a 29.6 percent decrease in the rate from the 2011-12 school year. The state also saw big improvements as 2.45 percent of students dropped out last school year, an, 18.6 percent drop from the previous year.

Last school year, Wake had 870 dropouts compared to 1,236 in the 2011-12 school year. Wake had 1,430 dropouts and a rate of 3.47 percent of high school students in the 2008-09 school year.

Wake was one of four districts that had the largest decreases in the number of dropouts over a three-year period.

Wake also saw the number of reportable acts of school crime and violence drop to 1,037 incidents last school year, or 6.954 incidents per 1,000 students. That compares to 1,099 incidents and a rate of 7.531 acts per 1,000 students in the 2011-12 school year.

There was a 4.8 percent decrease statewide in the number of reported acts of school crime and violence. The state rate was 7.2 acts per 1,000 students, a 5.6 percent drop from the prior school year.

In terms of school discipline, Wake reported 15,378 short-term suspensions, 337 long-term suspensions and eight expulsions in the 2012-13 school year. That compares to 14,223 short-term suspensions, 403 long-term suspensions and zero expulsions in the 2011-12 school year.

Statewide, there was a 9.4 percent drop in the number of short-term suspensions and a 11.6 percent drop in the number of long-term suspensions.

Wake has been trying to reduce suspensions over the past five years, doing things such as going to a five-level system of offenses to try to avoid suspensions for minor infractions. Wake used to give more than 20,000 short-term suspensions and more than 1,000 long-term suspensions a year.

But an 8 percent increase in the number of short-term suspensions, with 1,155 more being issued than the prior year, will likely draw red flags from groups that contend Wake’s discipline policies still need further reform.

Wake’s increase in short-term suspensions can’t be solely attributed to enrollment increases. For instance, Wake had 6,917 short-term suspensions last school year for high school students, or a rate of 16.18 suspensions per 100 students. That compares to 6,559 short-term suspensions for high school students and rate of 15.85 suspensions per 100 students in the 2011-12 school year.

Click here for a link to view the reports on school crime and suspensions, which include things such as school-level school crime data. Click here for the dropout rate report.

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