NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The New Hanover County Board of Education discussed a petition from the New Hanover County NAACP to end school suspensions among elementary schools during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, March 2.
Representatives for the NAACP spoke to the board, citing statistics from the Southern Coalition for social justice which found that while only 18% of the student body are black students, 59% of suspensions during the 2018-2019 school year were of black students.
Data is used from 2018-2019 because it is the last full school year of which data is available that was not impacted by a hurricane or the pandemic. The numbers specific to data among elementary schools shows an even wider spread. 61% of suspensions were of black students.
Statistics show black students are almost eight times more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts in New Hanover County schools.
Deborah Maxwell, President of the New Hanover Co. NAACP, spoke Tuesday in favor of eliminating suspensions and says it is something she’s pushed for before.
The proposal to eliminate suspensions as a form of disciplinary action was also supported by the New Hanover County Association of Educators.
Board member Nelson Beaulieu, who chairs the Policy Committee, introduced new language to be added to Policy 4300, which addresses student behavior policies, to further instill that suspensions are to be used as a last resort in disciplinary action.
“Even if you minimize the number of suspensions, and we saw this this year, we only 45 suspensions this year but the percentage of black students getting suspended is the same as it has been in the past with 2,900 suspensions... So, when we’re talking about restorative justice and really the systemic problem, you’re looking at the percentages of the black kids who are not getting educated within the classroom,” said NHCAE president Amanda White.
Beaulieu said that while racial disparities are a clear issue, he does not feel an elimination of suspensions as a disciplinary option is the answer.
Stephanie Kraybill said the district would need to build in programming to support other disciplinary options before eliminating suspensions, to include further training of staff.
The policies passed unanimously with the amended language, however, it does not change school administrators’ ability to use suspensions as deemed necessary.
“Supposedly it has always been used as a last resort, so really nothing has changed,” said Peter Rawitsch.