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School Safety Report Shows Decrease In Crime, Suspensions and Dropouts

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The rate of crime in schools has gone down for the third year in a row. Education leaders on the State Board of Education discussed the findings in their monthly meeting in Raleigh on Thursday.

Both the number of reportable crimes and the rate of crime on school campuses decreased in the 2018-19 year. The rate of crime decreased nine percent between 2018 and 2019.

It’s also the first year no school in North Carolina used corporal punishment, after the final two districts using it banned the practice after the 2017-18 school year.

Credit Cole del Charco / WUNC
Members of Boy Scouts of America from across the state pose with members of the State Board of Education during the March monthly meeting.

Long and short term suspension rates have gone down. The rate of short term suspensions for American Indian, black, Hispanic and students with two or more races decreased slightly from the previous year. The rate of short term suspensions for Asian, White and Pacific Islander students increased slightly in the last year.  

Board member James Ford said he's tired of seeing suspensions disproportionately affect minority students.  

"You know, we've said that equity is a part of our strategic plan, and at some point, we've got to be about that life," Ford said. "And I'm not code switching there, I'm just being honest."

Ford says the report isn't specific enough to explain why students are being suspended short term.  The Board asked staff to dig into the data to determine which suspensions may be affected by implicit bias.

The number of long-term suspensions for Exceptional Children in the state has remained around the same since 2016... That's after a significant decrease in 2014.

At the same time, in-school suspensions have gone up.  Those are suspensions that allow students to continue their studies.

Crimes related to sex increased on campus in the last year. Sexual assault not including rape or sexual offense increased by 20.9 percent from the 2017-18 to 2018-19 school year. Sexual offenses went up 22.9 percent.

There were 12 instances of burning a school building in 2018-19, up from one in the previous year, while bomb threats and possessions of a weapon were down. There were half as many bomb threats, and 20 percent fewer instances of possession of a weapon.

Possession of a controlled substance in violation of the law continues to be the most reported crime on campus. There were more than 4,600 reports in 2018-19.

Cole del Charco is an audio producer and writer based in Durham. He's made stories for public radio's All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Marketplace. Before joining Due South, he spent time as a freelance journalist, an education and daily news reporter for WUNC, and a podcast producer for WFAE in Charlotte.
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