Education

Report: Black elementary school students being suspended from Wake schools at disproportionate rate

Posted March 13, 2018 6:09 p.m. EDT
Updated March 13, 2018 7:22 p.m. EDT

— There were nearly 12,000 suspensions in Wake County public schools in the 2016-2017 school year, 20 percent of them at elementary schools.

African-Americans represent less than a quarter of the student population, but they account for almost two-thirds of the suspensions, according to the report by Dr. Paul Walker, Wake County public schools director.

Statistics show that 61 percent of elementary school students suspended were black children in the 4th or 5th grade.

One school board member described the statistics as a crisis that needs urgent attention.

Wake County school board Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler said the board asked for the suspension breakdown after noticing a high number of elementary school suspensions in an annual report.

“I think many of us at the table, including myself, really felt the need to say ‘this is urgent,’” she said. "That’s why I used the word crisis. It is not a word I use lightly.”

Kindergarteners aren't known for being troublemakers, but last year nearly 300 kindergartners were suspended from school in Wake County.

Walker, who created the report, said that most of the suspensions are for disruptive behavior and physical aggression. He said the suspension rates have been consistent over the past years.

School board members are now working to turn the numbers around.

“It’s imperative to me that we have to do something, and we are going to see this through,” Johnson-Hostler said.