NHC School Board rejects motion to end school suspensions for younger students

It’s a topic that has brought crowds to every New Hanover County Board of Education meeting for months: suspending school children ages 4-7
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 9:19 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A motion to end school suspensions by September for ages 4-7 students was rejected by Board of Education members at a meeting Tuesday night.

The vote failed 3-4 with Chairperson Stephanie Kraybill, and board members Stefanie Adams, Nelson Beaulieu, and Hugh McManus casting the dissenting votes.

“I just think that everybody needs a little more time,” said Kraybill. “We are all on the same page, we all believe that no little kid should be put out of school, but we still need time to work on that.”

Board members Judy Justice, Pete Wildeboer, and Stephanie Walker wanted school suspensions to end by September. Others said they wanted them to end but needed more time to put a plan in place to have alternatives to not suspending children and have all educators on the same page.

The debate about suspending young school children has drawn crowds to every New Hanover County Board of Education meeting for months.

“I think there’s pretty clear unanimity among the board that we want to end these suspensions for our youngest learners,” said Board Member Nelson Beaulieu. “We want to end suspensions for all learners to the greatest extent possible. I think that’s a passion for this board.”

Love Our Children, a non-profit group that advocates for ending out-of-school suspensions for young children, has pushed the board to take action since day one.

“We come back month after month for the past year,” said Love Our Children member and former educator Peter Rawitsch. “Sharing with them research, reasons.”

The board has discussed the suspension data on numerous occasions, but hasn’t made any changes to the current policy in recent meetings.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Veronica McLaurin-Brown, also a former educator and Love our Children member. “Not just because it took a year, but because it has taken 50 years for us to address this issue.”

New Hanover County administrators have programs in place to try and reduce the amount of out-of-school suspensions, such as the Behavior Leadership Foundations Professional Learning Community. The program includes training teachers and staff how to better handle student’s behavior in a more positive way.

“My goal as a board member, an individual board member, is to get rid of these suspensions,” said New Hanover County School Board Member Nelson Beaulieu. “That’s absolutely what I hope happens at some point. Regardless of the vote... I don’t think the objective changes.”

In a presentation to the board at a meeting earlier this month, 55 students in grades K-5 had been suspended in Quarter 2 of the 2021-2022 school year.

Something that McLaurin-Brown hopes will change going forward.

“We’re hopeful that they’ll change the policy,” said McLaurin-Brown. “But, I know that we are committed to working until the policy has changed.”

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