Student Advocates Worry Wake Suspension Rules Will Put Students Off Track
The Wake County Board of Education has voted to update its discipline policy.
The changes will limit the number of students in long-term suspension, according to Bren Elliot, Wake's Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services, adding that principals will have more discretion to transfer students to an alternative web-based education track called SCORE.
"We have a little more than 200 students each year," Elliot said. "They're ending up with a long-term suspension, which means that they have no access to the education during their time that they're suspended [from] school," Elliott said. "So, what we're trying to do is remove any barriers to them having access to an alternative learning program during their suspension."
But Peggy Nicholson, co-director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice's Youth Justice Project, says it isn't clear that a shorter list of long-term suspensions will result in more students staying on track.
"What the proposed change could do is allow Wake County to start reporting really low, long-term suspension numbers, but only because they're just reassigning those students to poorer-quality alternative schools," Nicholson said. "Which is what would have happened to those students even if they had gotten a long-term suspension, and it had been reported as a long-term suspension."
Nicholson cites a North Carolina Legal Aid public records request from 2015 that showed 1 in 3 Wake County students in the SCORE program last year had to repeat a grade.