Wake County Schools are prepared to tackle suspension rates

Wake County school leaders are gearing up to keep the momentum going on a host of initiatives aimed at reducing suspensions, while continuing to ensure that schools are safe and orderly. Recently released data covering a five-year period from 2008-2009 through 2012-2013 specifically looked at suspensions of African American males and students with disabilities. While the report shows a decline during the first four years, suspension rates began to increase during the 2012-13 school year.

On the flip side, there is a lot of encouraging news, showing 81 percent of African American males were not suspended. The report also looked at total African American suspension rates, including male and female students, and found that 86 percent have not faced suspension.

The Wake County Public School System is continuing to address the issue by creating more alternative settings that will keep students in school. The school board is committed to maintaining a safe and orderly learning environment for all students while making changes intended to keep more students from facing out-of-school suspensions.

Some of those changes include policy, expectations and mindset changes.  In January 2014, the school board revised the Student Code of Conduct to further reduce suspensions for relatively minor “level 1” disciplinary infractions. District leaders also point to a three-tiered approach to addressing the issues.  Wake County offers five alternative schools to meet the needs of students who need more educational options. Additionally, Second Chance Online Resource for Education (SCORE), behavior intervention coaches, and Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) are just a few of the other programs and initiatives designed to keep students engaged in learning while dealing with disciplinary issues.

The school system is making a firm commitment to reversing the trend of growing suspension rates for all students, including a proposal to increase funding to address the problem. The Superintendent’s 2014-15 proposed budget includes $305,000 for High School Intervention coordinators with a designed goal of improving graduation rates. The district is also reaching out to the law enforcement community to provide a comprehensive approach to the roles of the School Resource Officer (SRO). Last summer the district provided legal training to SRO’s at an annual summit, which covered topics of responding to student misconduct, search and seizure, Miranda rights, and rules governing discipline for off-campus conduct.

The long term goal is to provide an array of programs, services and support to specific target populations while providing all students various options to ensure an opportunity to succeed.