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The Voice of the Black Community

Local & State

Excessive supsensions in North Carolina's public schools
African American rate triple that of white peers
Published Wednesday, March 16, 2016 4:53 am
by Herbert L. White

James Ford, an advisor to the N.C. State Board of Education and a former teacher at Garinger High School in Charlotte, contends "implicit racial bias" is  at the heart of suspension disparities in the state's public schools. Ford was the 2014-15 state teacher of the year.














African American students in North Carolina public schools are far more likely to be suspended than their white peers.

A report by the State Board of Education found disproportionate disciplinary practices in schools that affect black students. There were three short-term suspensions for every 10 black students – more than triple the rate for white students. Short-term suspensions are 10 days or less in duration; long-term suspensions are 10 days or more.

“The only thing that was surprising to me is that we haven’t addressed this head on,” James Ford, an advisor to the board, told N.C. Policy Watch, a public policy website funded by the N.C. Justice Center. Ford was the 2014-15 state teacher of the year when he was at Garinger High School in Charlotte.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools suspension rate fell 8 percent in 2014-15 but at 17,537 suspensions for black students, the rate was 79 percent of all suspensions. Whites were suspended 1,476 times.

Overall, CMS’s total of black student suspensions were more than twice that of Wake County, which totaled 7,308.

Critics of school suspension policies suggest black students are punished for offenses based on a double standard.

“What may be disrespectful in one culture may not be disrespectful in another,” N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson told state education board members.

Ford told N.C. Policy Watch he believes “implicit racial bias” is at the heart of suspension disparities and state education and political leaders haven’t done enough to deal with it.

“As a board, our job is to scrutinize it,” he said. “And we have fallen short.”

CMS has collaborated with law enforcement, social services and family agencies to develop alternatives to suspensions such as conflict resolution and restorative justice initiatives.

“The decline in total suspensions is the result of the intentional efforts of our educators, students, families and community partners to support students who may be exhibiting behaviors that can impede learning,” CMS Superintendent Ann Clark said earlier this month. “This will continue to be a strong area of focus for our district. Whenever possible, we want to keep every CMS student in school and on track to graduate with the skills needed for college and career success.”

In 2015-2016, schools in the Vance High School attendance zone launched restorative justice programs, which focus on addressing incidents when they occur.

Short-term suspensions of 10 days or less declined from 24,121 in 2013-14 to 22,196 in 2014-15. Long-term suspensions increased to 46 in 2014-15 from eight the previous year.


Ford is absolutely correct. Now what shall we do about it?
Posted on September 21, 2016
Posted on March 17, 2016

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