Silence speaks volumes. Talk is cheap. It’s time to act.

On Tuesday March, 2 2021, the New Hanover County Board of Education will be discussing and voting on their school suspension policies. The New Hanover County NAACP Parents’ Council, of which I am a member, is calling for the end of PreK – 5th grade suspensions. If I had more than 3 minutes to speak at the Board’s “Call to the Audience” portion of their meeting, here is what I would say:

1. The Board of Education must live up to the NHCS statement on Systemic Racism.

Here is the first paragraph of the New Hanover County Schools statement on Systemic Racism from June 19, 2020.

“At a time when silence speaks volumes, New Hanover County Schools (NHCS) refuses to be mute. As a district, we denounce racism, white supremacy, hatred, and affirm that black lives matter. The most recent murders of unarmed Black citizens, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd have further divided our nation and shined a bright light on the systemic racism in our country. We must speak directly to the traumatic events that are surely on the minds of everyone in our community. We, as a nation and as a community, cannot allow for acts of racism and injustice to continue.”

You can read the complete text here:

https://www.nhcs.net/divisions/communication/news/post/~board/district-news/post/new-hanover-county-schools-releases-statement-on-systemic-racism

Here is the data I found about the 2018-2019 school year on four elementary schools with a predominately white student population and four elementary schools with a predominately black student population.

Wrightsville Beach Elementary – 314 students 

White = 278, Black = 4

Rate of criminal acts per 1,000 = 0

Rate of bullying and harassment per 1,000 = 3.22

1 suspension totaling 1 day out of the classroom

Ogden Elementary – 695 students 

White = 597, Black = 13

Rate of criminal acts per 1,000 = 0

Rate of bullying and harassment per 1,000 = 12.97

7 suspensions totaling 6 days out of the classroom

Walter Parsley Elementary  – 681 students 

White = 563, Black = 15

Rate of criminal acts per 1,000 = 0

Rate of bullying and harassment per 1,000 = 1.47

7 suspensions totaling 8 days out of the classroom

Edwin Anderson Elementary – 663 students 

White = 539, Black = 29

Rate of criminal acts per 1,000 = 0

Rate of bullying and harassment per 1,000 = 0

8 suspensions totaling 11 days out of the classroom

…………………………………………….

Edwin Alderman Elementary – 287 students 

White = 115, Black = 129

Rate of criminal acts per 1,000 = 0

Rate of bullying and harassment per 1,000 = 7.09

74 suspensions totaling 118 days out of the classroom

Sunset Park Elementary – 343 students 

White = 72, Black = 176

Rate of criminal acts per 1,000 = 0

Rate of bullying and harassment per 1,000 = 0

82 suspensions totaling 111 days out of the classroom

Rachel Freeman Elementary – 253 students 

White = 16, Black = 232

Rate of criminal acts per 1,000 = 0

Rate of bullying and harassment per 1,000 = 39.84

95 suspensions totaling 170 days out of the classroom

Wrightsboro Elementary – 552 students 

White = 167, Black = 208

Rate of criminal acts per 1,000 = 3.58

Rate of bullying and harassment per 1,000 = 23.30

171 suspensions totaling 210 days out of the classroom

Here are the sources for the 2018-2019 New Hanover County Schools data:


Southern Coalition for Social Justice – Racial Equality Report Card for New Hanover County Schools

https://rerc.southerncoalition.org/page/report-card-by-agency?var=agencyId:new-hanover-county-in-north-carolina-nc&var=reportCardStartYear:2018


North Carolina Department of Public – Instruction, Discipline, ALP, and Dropout Annual Reports

https://www.dpi.nc.gov/data-reports/dropout-and-discipline-data/discipline-alp-and-dropout-annual-reports

North Carolina School Report Cards – New Hanover County Schools

https://ncreports.ondemand.sas.com/src/?viewSelect=county&year=2019&type=Both&level=All&district=All&lng=en&currpage=1&county=new%20hanover

2. The Board of Education must receive, analyze, and discuss the data on elementary school suspensions before any vote is taken on suspension policies.

The data must include the number of in-school and out-of-school suspensions and short-term and long term suspensions reported by school year, elementary school, grade level, gender, and race. 

Additional data should focus on suspensions of elementary special education students. 

3. Teachers, staff, and principals must respond to behavioral mistakes by PreK – 5th grade students with student conferences, parental involvement, behavior contracts, instruction in conflict resolution and anger management, peer mediation, small group sessions with the school counselor, and restorative justice practices, instead of suspensions.

There are many alternatives to elementary school suspensions. If one alternative doesn’t work, teachers, staff, and principals need to try another alternative.

4. The Board of Education must collect, analyze, and discuss follow-up data on suspended elementary students who are now in middle school and high school before any vote is taken on suspension policies.

There is no research that shows behavior improves when a student is suspended from school. However, there is research that shows that suspensions can lead to poor attendance, lower grades, and dropping out of school.

5. Members of the Board of Education must stop making excuses on why they need suspensions. 

There is no time built into the regular school day for teachers to meet one-on-one with students who have made behavior mistakes. That time would be used for the teacher to find out what the child’s concerns are, why they acted the way they did, and to make a collaborative plan where everyone’s needs are met.

Inadequate time during the school day is not a valid excuse to continue with suspensions.

Some teachers have been trained in Restorative Justice practices. Many teachers have not received that training.

Inadequate training of the staff is not a valid excuse to continue with suspensions.

New or additional trading in Restorative Justice practices will cost money. 

Inadequate resources are not a valid excuse to continue with suspensions.

After Policy 4200 is revised to include the statement, “In-school and out-of-school suspensions will not be used as a consequence for elementary students in grades K – 5.”, educators, specialists, the administration, and community members need to work together to create a plan where more time, training, and resources would be allocated to support alternatives to suspensions.

6. The New Hanover County Schools must stop using one punitive narrative for all student behavior.

On a rare occasion, a student might have severe medical, social, or emotional needs that prevent them from being able to learn in a traditional school environment. They may lack the self-control that is required to comply with rules, be respectful, and accept responsibility for his or her behavior. Under the supervision of their pediatrician, social worker, or other health specialists, it might be determined that a different setting is required. 

Such student behavior must not be viewed as a “violation of the Code of Student Conduct.” Such a student might better be described as having a medical illness or a mental health problem. Their time away from school should not count as a suspension, but rather “a leave of absence” until they are treated and are well enough to return to school.

Silence speaks volumes. Talk is cheap. It’s time to act.

End PreK-5 suspensions in the New Hanover County Schools.

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