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Crime, Dropouts, Suspensions Down In NC Public Schools

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Crime, violence, dropout rates and out-of-school suspensions declined across North Carolina public schools last school year, according to a report released by state education officials.

The report shows 10,630 reported acts of school crime and violence last school year, a 4.8 percent decrease from the 11,161 acts in 2011-12. The most common reported acts involve illegal possession of drugs or alcohol, weapons or assault.

About 2.45 percent of high school students dropped out last school year, a significant decline from the previous year. There were 11,049 dropouts last school year, compared to 13,488 in 2011-12.

Cases of corporal punishment also declined by nearly 50 percent in 2012-13 school. Districts that use corporal punishment reported 203 uses, down from 404.

The state also reported 247,919 short-term suspensions, which last 10 days or less. It’s a 4 percent drop from the previous year. The average length of a short-term suspension was 2.74 days.

Long-term suspensions of 11 days or more also declined among students, with 1,423 reported in 2012-13. That’s an 11.6 percent decrease from the 1,609 reported in 2011-12. The average length of a long-term suspension was 49.3 days.

The numbers come at a time when Wake and Durham school systems are under federal investigations for complaints about excessive policing, especially of minority students. Both districts saw increases in the number of short-term suspensions.

In Durham public schools, there were 6,020 short-term suspensions across the school district, compared to 5,934 during 2011-12 school year. Wake county schools reported 15,378 short-term suspensions – 1,155 more than the previous year.

State officials credit school resource officers, positive intervention programs and support from school administrators for the improved numbers.

“I think the prevalence of getting kids in learning alternative programs has really helped reduce long term suspensions a lot. And I think also just examining the things that they are long term suspended for has helped a lot,” says Kenneth Gattis, an education coordinator with the state’s Department of Public Instruction.

Despite the improved numbers, the state reports a slight increase in the number of student expulsions. Thirty-seven students last year received expulsions, compared to 30 in the previous year. 

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.
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