Wake County School Board hosts forum on student discipline

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Parents and school board members weighed in on discipline in Wake County Schools Monday night. The school held a public forum at Southeast Raleigh High School.

Everyone agreed African Americans make up 24 percent of the student body, they make up 59 percent of the students suspended. And, everyone also agrees it’s not just the schools that need to make a change.

Wake County School Board Chair Tom Benton admits, the numbers don’t lie.

“We fully accept these are concerns, we know they’re concerns. I hope they’ll join with us in seeking positive solutions that we can replicate throughout our system,” said Benton of the Wake County community.

Black students, especially black male students, not only make up an overwhelmingly disproportional number of suspensions, they’re more likely to be arrested for theft or fighting in school. It’s a national problem, so the school system is reaching out for solutions.

“We’re also working with other districts across the country, even within our region to bring ideas, new ideas to find solutions to these most pressing equity challenges,” said Dr. Rodney Trice, WCPSS Asst. Superintendent for Equity Affairs.

But, school officials and community leaders say it’s a problem they need to work together to solve.

“This is not just a school issue it’s a community issue, so I mean we all going to have to get involved with this to curtail these issues going on about these kids being suspended or the kids getting in altercations in schools or whatever the case is,” said Donald Mial, an active community member.

School officials are looking for improvement suggestions though, and Monday, they got them.

“The school system can probably do a better job of trying to work and trying to network with the families, trying to get the families more involved with the schools in what’s going on,” said Mial.

“Maybe the student needs counseling as opposed to being suspended. Maybe the child has an undiagnosed medical issue that needs to be addressed. I think the school system needs to do a better job of getting down to the core reason of why these kids are misbehaving in the first place,” said Jessica Holmes, a Wake County Commissioner.

The school system is working on discipline alternatives, but involvement is something they’re asking all parents to help improve.

“This is not an issue that only affects African American students. I would prefer more diversity in the room. I’d love for all parents of all colors to be here to focus on this issue because it addresses everyone, it impacts everyone in our community, not just people of color,” said Holmes.

As part of the school system’s effort to get the community involved, many groups were represented at the meeting: law enforcement, churches, teachers and elected officials were all working for a more equitable education.

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