Suspensions are down in the Wake County school system, but the number of dropouts and reported acts of school crime are up, according to figures released Thursday by the state Department of Public Instruction.
Wake County reported 10,938 short-term suspensions – those of 10 days or less – and 267 long-term suspensions in the 2013-14 school year. That’s down from the 15,378 short-term suspensions and 337 long-term suspensions in the 2012-13 school year.
Wake has reduced suspensions by 45 percent over the past five years as it has undergone a federal civil rights investigation into allegations that black students are disproportionately suspended. Wake school officials said the district now suspends high school students at nearly half the statewide rate.
“We understand that if kids aren’t in school, their academic achievement is negatively impacted,” said Brenda Elliott, Wake’s assistant superintendent for Student Support Services, in a written statement. “However, if their behavior is disruptive to the school environment, then we have to address it.”
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Wake’s crime and dropout statistics offered mixed results.
Wake had 1,158 reported acts of crime in the 2013-14 school year, for a rate of 7.587 acts per 1,000 students. Both are up from 1,037 acts and a rate of 6.954 crimes per 1,000 students the previous school year.
The 16 reportable acts of crime include assaults involving serious injury or a weapon, bomb threats, arson, homicide, kidnapping, alcohol violations, weapons possession, sexual assaults and robbery.
Wake school officials focused on how the district’s rate of 12.77 crimes per 1,000 high school students is only slightly above the state rate and comparable to North Carolina’s other large school systems. For instance, the rate is 11.86 acts per 1,000 students in Guilford County and 13.37 crimes per 1,000 students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system.
In terms of dropouts, Wake reported 1,017 in the 2013-14 school year – a 19 percent increase from the previous year. But the state reported that Wake was among the districts with the largest three-year decrease in dropouts.
Nearly 1,500 students dropped out in the 2009-10 school year.
Wake’s dropout rate increased to 2.22 percent of its high school students, but it’s still below the state rate of 2.28 percent.
In Durham, there were fewer short-term suspensions and reported crimes, and the dropout rate improved.
Johnston County saw across-the-board decreases in suspensions, reported crimes and the dropout rate.
In the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system, fewer students received short-term suspensions and the dropout rate improved. But the number of reported crimes increased.
The state reported decreases for the third year in a row in the number of reported acts of school crime and suspensions. The dropout rate is at a record low.
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