Wake County Schools

Wake student discusses suspension numbers with federal officials

Posted March 24, 2014 5:56 p.m. EDT
Updated March 24, 2014 6:00 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— A Wake County student was in Washington, D.C. Monday to advocate for a change in how students are disciplined in school.

Ajamu Dillahunt, a junior at Southeast Raleigh High School, met with the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for African-American Children to discuss local suspension numbers and those recently released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The study, consisting of data from all of the nation’s public schools, found that black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment but make up 48 percent of those suspended more than once. Black students represent 16 percent of total student enrollment yet make up 27 percent of those referred to law enforcement and 31 percent of those arrested in school.

Black students make up 25 percent of all Wake students but account for over 60 percent of school suspensions, according to research by a student group Dillahunt is part of.

NC HEAT (North Carolina Heroes Emerging Among Teens) is a group of Wake students who have addressed the district’s discipline policies during community and school board meetings, even presenting Wake Superintendent Jim Merrill with a cake highlighting the number of suspended students.

“Students in San Francisco and Wake County continue to face racial discrimination in school discipline that negatively impacts Black and Latino students,” the group said in a statement. “Overly punitive zero tolerance policies result in student suspension, expulsion and even arrest for things such as talking back to a teacher, being tardy to class or not wearing the appropriate school uniform.”

School discipline is slated for discussion during a Governor’s Task Force on Safer Schools steering committee meeting in New Bern on Wednesday.