The civil rights groups who filed the federal complaint accusing the Wake County school system of unfair policing practices plan to speak out at Monday’s Superintendent’s Direct Line forum at Southeast Raleigh High School.
In a press release today from the Youth Organizing Institute, the groups say they will “ask Superintendent Jim Merrill stance on police and discipline policies in schools.” Qasima Wideman, a member of NC HEAT, says in the press release that "I look forward to engaging Superintendent Merrill in a dialogue.”
The problem is that Merrill has said from the very start of the forums that he will only listen to the comments and not engage in a dialogue at the events.
The groups have taken advantage of the prior forums, holding a press conference outside the first forum at East Wake High School. Inside, Merrill told reporters he couldn’t comment on the complaint.
Here’s the press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 31, 2014
WHO: NC Heroes Emerging Among Teens (NC HEAT), Education Justice Alliance (EJA), Justice and Youth Organizing Institute (YOI)
WHAT: Superintendent Forum
WHEN: February 3, 2014 at 6:30 pm
WHERE: Southeast Raleigh High School
Raleigh – Last week Advocates for Children Services and Wake County community groups announced they were bringing a federal complaint before the Department of Justice regarding the disparate impact of policing in Wake County Public Schools on African American youth and students with disabilities.
Youth of color, youth with disabilities, and LGBTQ youth are disproportionately disciplined with arrests and suspensions, which push them out of schools and into the prison system.
"I look forward to engaging Superintendent Merrill in a dialogue that centers student input. Students of color and disabled students in Wake County are in a state of emergency," said Qasima Wideman, Wake County student and member of NC HEAT. "Punitive policies like suspensions and in-school arrests are pushing students out of the school system and into the prison system, and student voices are essential to the process of developing the solutions. I hope NC HEAT's presence at this forum can help clarify Mr. Merrill's plans for addressing this pressing issue."
Late in 2013 former school board chair Keith Sutton stated that the school board should consider a moratorium or temporary pause on out-of-school suspensions for level one infractions, but the school board has not since taken actions to make substantial policy changes.
"We are grateful Superintendent Merrill is holding these public forums, it is essential that he understands and responds to the needs of our schools," said Letha Muhammad, a parent and member of the Education Justice Alliance. "When students are suspended and arrested for minor offenses such as showing up late to school the learning environment becomes one of fear and not one where everyone can succeed. We look forward to raising our concerns and developing solutions to our schools' problems with him at the upcoming forum."
NC HEAT, EJA, and YOI community groups, including parents and students most affected by these policies, will seek answers from Superintendent Jim Merrill during the community forum. The coalition is calling for the implementation of restorative justice, policies with a track record of success around the country, and the prioritization of counselors and teachers over police officers and SRO's.