Civil rights office addressing racial discrimination complaint against Wake Schools

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights visited the Wake County Schools Tuesday after numbers indicate black male students are more likely to be suspended from school.

The Federal Office of Civil Rights is investigating a racial discrimination complaint against the Wake County Public School System.

Numbers showed not only are black male students more likely to be suspended from Wake County Schools than their white classmates, they are also more likely to be arrested for theft or fighting at school.

But the school system says it has reduced student suspensions by 34 percent in the past five years “while emphasizing positive behaviors as part of its discipline programs.”

Sanyu Gichie from a youth organizing campaign acknowledges the improvements. “The trends have been going down but the people who are being impacted the most are still being impacted the most,” Gichie said. “They were then and they are now.”

Wake County Schools point out that 90 percent of its African-American students have never been suspended during their school careers.

A meeting is being held Tuesday night among parents and representatives of advocacy groups and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The feds are only listening to concerns at this meeting.

The issue is not a local problem, but a national one and Wake County Schools say they have been discussing ideas about how to fix it for a while.

“We accept these are concerns, we know they are concerns,” said James Merrill, the Wake County Schools Superintendent.

On Monday, the NAACP held an event urging parents to attend Tuesday night’s forum with the Office of Civil Rights.

NAACP leaders are urging parents to speak out about what they are calling injustices at school.

“The Office of Civil Rights would provide the opportunity for members of the community, parents, grandparents, youth to share their experiences,” said the Rev. Portia Rochelle, Raleigh/Apex NAACP.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Vital Link School Event Center on East Lenoir Street in Raleigh.

(WNCN’s Emma Wright and Steve Sbraccia contributed to this report.)

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