Education

Report: Wake schools suspensions a 'prison pipeline'

Posted August 19, 2013

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— In a report issued Monday, Legal Aid of North Carolina blasted the disciplinary system in the Wake County Public School System, calling it a "school-to-prison pipeline."

"The pipeline is a system of laws, policies, and practices that pushes students out of schools and on a path toward the juvenile and criminal systems," the report said.

Legal Aid's Advocates for Children's Services project looked at data on student suspensions for the 2011-12 school year and found the punishments are applied disproportionately to students who are African-American, economically disadvantaged or disabled.

Jennifer Story, one of the report's authors, said, "There are still too many students being suspended in Wake County."

ACS argued that suspensions – both in-school and out-of-school – are used inconsistently as punishment and do not always teach the right lesson.

"Our consequence for them – to teach them not to skip school is to force them not to come to school," Story said.

“What we found in reviewing thousands of pages of public records and analyzing extensive data was that the WCPSS does not have a comprehensive, coordinated approach to preventing misbehavior and intervening when it occurs,” said report co-author Jason Langberg.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Merrill didn't have a comment, although a spokesman for the district said leaders of the state's largest school district were aware of the claims and were reviewing the data.

Keith Sutton, chairman of the Wake Board of Education, said the report didn't come as a surprise.

There have even been suggestions to place a moratorium on some suspensions until the district can iron the issues out.

"We have had concerns about this for a while," Sutton said. "These are things we are aware of and taking steps to address."

He noted that short-term suspensions were down 18 percent in 2012-13, and long-term suspensions were down 30 percent over the year ACS studied.

The report also found little consistency in security policy and procedures followed by school resource officers, private school security and school staff, and report authors questioned the logic that requires complaints about students over the age of 16 to be adjudicated in the adult legal system. 

"Any time a school-based complaint is filed against a WCPSS student over age 16, the student goes straight into the adult criminal system. In an attempt to increase safety and security, the WCPSS is instead sending students directly into a school-to-prison pipeline," the authors wrote.

Sutton acknowledged that the schools could use more alternative programs, counselors and psychologists. 

"Some of it is budget issues that make it hard to address," he said. "But some (solutions) do not cost money."

Story, Langberg and ACS hope the report re-opens the discussion of punishment alternatives. 

"Instead of pushing kids out, which is easy to do, how about taking a step back and looking at the root of the problem," Story suggested. 

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  • djofraleigh Aug 21, 2013

    The vast majority of suspended students are MALES. Is that not de factor discrimination based on sex?

  • beachboater Aug 21, 2013

    “What we found in reviewing thousands of pages of public records and analyzing extensive data was that the WCPSS does not have a comprehensive, coordinated approach to preventing misbehavior and intervening when it occurs,” said report co-author Jason Langberg

    Took you several THOUSAND pages to figure this out? I could have told you for a cup of coffee. We don't need less discipline, we could use fewer suspensions, but we need corporal punishment back in schools.

    Ask anyone over 40 what his school days were like. Many if not most, got in worse trouble at home after getting in trouble at school. You respected your teachers and principle. You kept your shirt tail tucked in, no t-shirts, no sandals, no shorts.

    There was none of this "my child wouldn't do that" from parents. You behaved and you learned. If you didn't want to learn, you at least kept your mouth shut.

    Too many class clowns keeping other kids from learning.

  • edtomjr Aug 21, 2013

    Hills-n-hollers, did you not follow that story? He admitted to intentionally bringing the gun to school, it wasn't a mishap like he originally made it out to be.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Aug 21, 2013

    edtomjr - "...people pushing for others to be sympathetic and to look at the "gray area" of the Johnston County kid who brought a gun to school and lied about it."

    How do you know that was intentional? There was plenty of evidence to show it was accidental and the kid tried to correct it by calling his parents to come get the rifle.

    If someone in the school office hadn't overheard that conversation, it would have worked.

    Someone who blatantly plans to carry a weapon to school intentionally generally wouldn't later call their parents to try to fix that.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Aug 21, 2013

    IMHO - The teachers and school administrations can only work with what parents send them from home. Too many parents are too concerned with chasing their own wants and desires rather than raising their children to be good citizens, and this is the result.

    A teacher very rarely is able to take junk and turn it into a jewel.

  • beaupeep Aug 21, 2013

    How about a "3 strikes" rule?

    First strike - detention

    Second strike - suspension

    third strike - expulsion (or alternate school w/ parent transportation)

    If you can't straighten it out after 2 strikes, you don't deserve to be there disrupting those that do.

  • bushido2298 Aug 21, 2013

    1. Parents are failing to raise kids
    2. It's not the schools job to properly raise someone else's children.
    3. Schools are designed to educate kids.
    4. Stop blaming the bad behavior of kids on the teachers and schools.
    5. See # 1

  • edtomjr Aug 21, 2013

    It's funny, the same people here talking about enforcing zero-tolerance and that everything should be black & white are the same people pushing for others to be sympathetic and to look at the "gray area" of the Johnston County kid who brought a gun to school and lied about it.

  • beaupeep Aug 21, 2013

    B-b-b-but, this can't be the same "nationally recognized, model" school system they're always talking about, can it? They keep telling us how we're the envy of the nation, the golden standard to which others strive to acheive.

  • GLOCKMASTER Aug 21, 2013

    They act like it all falls on the shoulders of the school system when in all actuality most of it falls on the parents shoulders. The school system can only do so much with a kids behavior. If they can't behave then send them away so the rest who are willing to learn can get an education.

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