Wake Ed

Groups demand Wake County reduce black student suspensions

Qasima Wideman, a student at Cary High School spoke about what she sees at her school in regards to student discipline practices. She said she has seen minority students, LGBTQ students and students with disabilities unfairly targeted by school resource officers.
Qasima Wideman, a student at Cary High School spoke about what she sees at her school in regards to student discipline practices. She said she has seen minority students, LGBTQ students and students with disabilities unfairly targeted by school resource officers. mhankerson@newsobserver.com

Three community groups “are demanding” that the Wake County school system respond to a new report showing the high rate of suspensions among black students.

A new report released Tuesday by the University of Pennsylvania shows that while black students are 24.7 percent of Wake’s enrollment, they account for 53.3 percent of the suspensions. In a press release Thursday, the Education Justice Alliance, Dignity In Schools and the Coalition Of Concerned Citizens for African American Children say Wake should “develop an immediate action plan that will eliminate the high rate of suspensions and the disparities of Black Students.”

“We believe that Black students are gravely harmed by the district’s practices of high suspensions, expulsions, retentions, student arrests; ISS placement rates have had a negative impact on the education and life of our children,” the groups say in the press release. “We continue to demand that parents, students and all stakeholders are directly involved in the development and the implementation of the comprehensive action plan.”

Wake schools, which are currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, because so many black students are suspended, has made changes in its discipline practices over the past six years.

In May, Wake County school administrators presented a plan they say will make discipline more equitable in the state’s largest school system. Action steps include having principals establish goals for reducing racial disparity in suspensions and analyzing suspension data to look for trends that reflect disparities.

While black students still account for the majority of Wake’s suspensions, the total number of suspensions among all students has dropped sharply in recent years. For instance, school officials say there was a 23 percent reduction in the individual number of students suspended in the 2013-14 school year compared to the previous year.

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