Wake County Superintendent Jim Merrill compares suspension rate to Charlotte

04/14/2014 9:00 AM

04/13/2014 5:03 PM

Wake County Superintendent Jim Merrill is pointing to how the district suspends fewer students than Charlotte-Mecklenburg to help counter complaints from youth advocates about discipline policies.

Wake school officials are touting how over the past five years there’s been a 28 percent decrease in total suspensions, a 26 percent decrease in short-term suspensions, a 66 percent decrease in long-term suspensions and a 21 percent decrease in individual suspensions at a time when enrollment has grown 8 percent.

But critics, including those who’ve filed a federal civil rights complaint charging Wake disproportionately suspends black students, are pointing to how short-term suspensions rose 8 percent last school year.

Merrill addressed the issue during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

“We were not surprised to see a slight uptick in the K-12 short-term suspensions, and we’re addressing it and the board is,” Merrill said. “These things rise and fall over time and you look at the trend over time. But putting things in perspective, in 2012-13 a similarly sized North Carolina district had 35,800 suspensions when Wake was at less than half that at 15,000.

So the issue of discipline and how to work with young people in need is state and national and we know that. And so proud of Wake that we’re not ignoring this, and in fact confronting and addressing.”

While Merrill didn’t say Charlotte-Mecklenburg by name, it’s the only district in North Carolina that’s close to Wake in size.

Click here for a Wake district blog post on how it’s dealing with suspensions.


The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. WakeEd is maintained by The News & Observer's Wake schools reporter, T. Keung Hui.

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