Wake Ed

Looking at the number of Wake County juvenile justice complaints

Wake County school board member Keith Sutton is trying to downplay talk that the county has an excessively high number of school-based juvenile justice complaints.

Sutton presented this handout at last week’s school board work session showing that the percentage of juvenile justice complaints in Wake County that are school based is lower than the percentage statewide For instance, 42 percent of Wake’s complaints in the 2012-13 Fiscal Year were school based compared to 46 percent statewide.

Sutton said he requested the data from the state Department of Public Safety, where he works.

The handout lists delinquency complaints and disciplinary complaints that have been received in juvenile justice offices over the past five fiscal years.

Sutton said examples of delinquency complaints include committing a criminal offense such as larceny, assault and breaking and entering. He said discipline complaints are for non-criminal offenses such as running away from home, unlawful absence from school and incorrigible behavior within the home.

Sutton said that not all complaints go to court.

School board member Jim Martin asked about disaggregating the two kinds of complaints and finding out how many go to court. Sutton said that was probably obtainable.

But Sutton proceeded to publicly stress how Wake’s rate was lower than the state rate for school-based complaints.

School board chairwoman Christine Kushner said that the handout is “very useful to have.”

The issue of school-based referrals resulting in cases going to court was cited in the federal complaint filed in January charging discriminatory school policing policies in Wake.

“While schools may be justified in permitting law enforcement involvement in response to the most serious and unlawful student misbehaviors, the overwhelming majority of the referrals to court for school-based behavior in Wake County have been triggered by minor student misbehavior,” according to the complaint. “In state fiscal year 2011-12, the most recent year for which this data is available, 90% of the 763 school-based delinquency complaints, all of which were filed against students age 15 and younger, were for allegations of misdemeanor activity.

Within this subset of misdemeanor offenses, it has been the experience of the Complainants that the alleged ‘crimes’ for which WCPSS students are routinely being pushed into the juvenile and criminal systems are exceedingly minor and include offenses such as throwing water balloons, stealing paper from a recycling bin and play-fighting with a friend.”