Mom joins son in Durham suspension, finds lack of learning going on

Posted January 18, 2019 6:27 p.m. EST
Updated January 18, 2019 6:58 p.m. EST

— A Durham mother joined her son for two days of in-school suspension and then took her concerns about the punishment to Facebook.

Fatimah Salleh concedes that her teenage son, Micah, was horse-playing in the lunchroom and deserved in-school suspension.

"But what he was describing sounded fairly like ... what? He said, 'We face a wall all day, mom, with nothing to do.' I said that can't be true," Salleh said.

She was skeptical about her son's description of the experience, so she wanted to see for herself.

Last April, she decided to spend the two days in in-school suspension with her son. At the Durham School of the Arts, the punishment is served in a room on the bottom floor.

It's not so much the cheerless environment Salleh objected to as the lack of learning.

"Two of the children didn't get assignments whatsoever from any teacher, and there are seven classes," Salleh said. "I watched the young man draw all over his arm in Sharpie."

She was so troubled by the experience that she began writing a lengthy letter about it, but with her son still enrolled, she was reluctant to post it on social media.

She took Micah out of the school at year's end, but she has a younger son attending there now. He, too, recently acted up and ended up with in-school suspension. That's when mom decided to publish her message on Facebook.

"I'm deeply concerned that a physical body can be at school, can be at school and not learn a thing but be physically present and facing a wall for seven hours. That worries me," she said. "That deeply concerns me."

Laverne Maddox-Perry, who oversees what's called restorative practices for students who break the rules in Durham Public Schools says Salleh's experience does not mesh with the district's expectations.

"Our expectations are that every student in Durham Public Schools, regardless of behavior infraction, is treated with mutual respect, has an opportunity to be educated in an equitable manner, and is treated fairly," she said.

Fatimah Salleh thinks the school administration gives in-school suspension too readily, too frequently. She felt it necessary to bring that to light.