Under the Dome

Susan Evans calls GOP charges on school crime, dropouts misleading

Wake County school board member Susan Evans is the Democratic candidate for the N.C. Senate District 17 seat.
Wake County school board member Susan Evans is the Democratic candidate for the N.C. Senate District 17 seat. Courtesy of Susan Evans

School crime and dropouts have both fallen during Susan Evans’ time on the Wake County school board even though the North Carolina Republican Party charges that both areas have increased.

The state GOP created the Susan Evans Facts website with headlines such as “Under Evans, School Crime Spiked 9% in One Year” and “On Evans’ Watch, Wake Dropout Rate Soared.” The GOP is going after Evans because she’s the Democratic candidate for the N.C. Senate District 17 seat held by Republican incumbent Tamara Barringer.

The GOP is basing its statements on how the school crime rate and the number of dropouts both increased between the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. But if you look at where the dropout and crime rates are now in Wake schools, they’re less than they were before Evans joined the school board in December 2011.

“They obviously think stirring up fear will generate votes,” Evans said in an interview Thursday night.

The Wake County school crime rate has dropped 25.9 percent since the 2010-11 school year, going from 7.952 acts per 1,000 students to 5.89 acts in the 2014-15 school year. The 2015-16 school year figures haven’t been released yet.

The number of reported acts of school crime in Wake has dropped 20.1 percent since the 2010-11 school year, going from 1,132 to 904. The drop has occurred during a time period when Wake added 11,137 students.

The number of Wake County dropouts has declined 26.5 percent since the 2010-11 school year, going from 1,386 to 1,019 in the 2014-15 school year. Wake’s dropout rate has declined 33.8 percent since the 2010-11 school year, going from 3.25 percent to 2.15 percent.

The state Republican Party and other groups attacking Evans have been trying to spread the message that Wake schools have become less safe. For instance one mailer says “Susan Evans hasn’t kept our teachers and students safe.”

The GOP website charges that “Susan Evans was weakening school discipline and easing punishments for students who bring weapons to school.”

“Meanwhile, Evans supported ending mandatory suspensions for students who bring guns to schools, and for those involved in gang violence,” says the GOP-funded website. “She even allowed a student who threated [sic] a classmate with a gun back into school with the child he threatened.”

Evans said she has not advocated ending mandatory suspensions for students who bring guns to school or who are involved in gang violence. Under state law, bringing a gun to school is an automatic 365-day suspension from school.

WRAL reported that a student had brought a gun to Apex Middle School in October 2014 and allegedly threatened other students. After serving the automatic one-year suspension, the student returned to class and was at Apex High School with the students he was accused of threatening.

Evans said the student’s assignment to Apex High had not gone before the school board.

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