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Racial Disparities In Student Discipline And One Mother’s Fight For Change

Don Harder

In 2018, Durham mother Fatimah Salleh repeatedly listened to her son complain about his experience during in-school suspension, or ISS. The program is much like detention: Students spend the day in a classroom, and they are instructed to plug away quietly at school work. Curious about her son’s experience, Salleh decided to accompany him for a day to see for herself what ISS looked like atDurham School of the Arts

She documented what she witnessed in a Facebook post, published earlier this year, that has since gone viral. Salleh described that students did not have enough work to get them through the day, and were not allowed to sleep at risk of getting more ISS.

She also pointed out that nearly all the students in the room looked like her son: black and brown boys. Her post sparked a broader conversation about the racial disparities in school discipline throughout North Carolina.

Host Frank Stasio speaks with Salleh, and an administrator from Durham Public Schools about ongoing issues with student discipline and the implementation of restorative justice programs. Rev. Fatimah Salleh is a mother of two Durham Public Schools students and a pastoral consultant in the Triangle, and Laverne Mattocks-Perry is executive director for student support devices at Durham Public Schools.

They are also joined by Peggy Nicholson, director of the Youth Justice Project at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, to discuss their latest Racial Equity Report Card. Attorney Jon Powell, director of the Restorative Justice Clinic at Campbell University, shares his experience designing restorative justice programs and the impact it has on schools.

Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.
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