Under the Dome

Report finds NC black students disproportionately suspended

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

A new report released Tuesday shows how black students are suspended at much higher rates than white students in North Carolina and other Southern states.

The analysis from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania found that black students make up 26 percent of North Carolina’s public-school enrollment but account for 51 percent of suspensions and 38 percent of expulsions. North Carolina was among 13 Southern states that the report said account for 55 percent of the nation’s suspensions of black students and 50 percent of expulsions of black students.

“We hope this publication raises public consciousness and gives parents and families, policymakers, religious congregations, educators, activists, and others concerned about the school-to-prison pipeline the data they need to demand change in school districts across the South,” writes the report’s co-authors, Edward J. Smith and Shaun R. Harper. “...Ultimately, we hope fewer Black students are harmed by racist school discipline policies and practices.”

The analysis comes out after the Obama Administration issued guidelines in January 2014 calling for schools to ease up on zero-tolerance policies, promote more equitable discipline practices and stop arresting students for minor disciplinary infractions. In May, Wake County school administrators presented a plan they say will make discipline more equitable in the state’s largest school system.

The authors analyzed data collected by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. OCR is conducting investigations of discipline policies of school districts around the nation, including Wake County.

The report looks at overall suspensions and not at whether students of different races are more likely to be suspended or receive a harsher penalty for the same type of infraction.

The report singled out two Triangle-area charter schools as “among (North Carolina) districts in which suspensions most disproportionately affected Black students.”

At Sterling Montessori Academy in Morrisville, black students account for 10.7 percent of the enrollment but 50 percent of suspensions. Black students were suspended at a rate 4.7 times greater than their percentage of the school population.

At Crosscreek Charter School in Louisburg, black students account for 18.9 percent of the enrollment but 100 percent of suspensions. Black students were suspended at a rate 5.3 times greater than their share of the school enrollment.

The report includes suspension data for districts in 13 Southern states, including North Carolina, where 65,897 black students in the Tarheel State were suspended in a single school year. Among Triangle school systems:

▪ In Chapel Hill-Carrboro, black students make up 12.4 percent of the enrollment and 52.7 percent of suspensions. Black students were suspended at a rate 4.3 times greater than their share of the enrollment.

▪ In Chatham County, black students make up 13.2 percent of the enrollment and 25.7 percent of suspensions. Black students were suspended at a rate 1.9 times greater than their share of the enrollment.

▪ In Durham, black students make up 51 percent of the enrollment and 72.8 percent of suspensions. Black students were suspended at a rate 1.4 times greater than their share of the enrollment.

▪ In Johnston County, black students make up 16.4 percent of the enrollment and 30.9 percent of suspensions. Black students were suspended at a rate 1.9 times greater than their share of the enrollment.

▪ In Orange County, black students make up 16.2 percent of the enrollment and 34.4 percent of suspensions. Black students were suspended at a rate 2.1 times greater than their share of the enrollment.

▪ In Wake County, black students make up 24.7 percent of the enrollment and 53.3 percent of suspensions. Black students were suspended at a rate 2,2 times greater than their share of the enrollment.

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