New Hanover County School’s Board of Education votes to change suspension policy for students under the age of eight

NHC School Board votes to end most suspensions for students under 8 years old
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 10:38 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - After hearing pleas from parents and advocates for more than a year, the New Hanover County School Board voted Tuesday night to end suspensions for students under the age of eight years old.

A victory for the group Love Our Children.

“Way too many students, young students, were being kicked out of school where they would receive more support, no extra help, no services to help them address the issues that made them act out, misbehave,” said Love Our Children co-founder Peter Rawitsch. “I just couldn’t imagine that being allowed to happen and really [it] is wrong. We shouldn’t be punishing our youngest children for making mistakes.”

Peter Rawitsch has provided information about suspensions in schools for more than a year.

Just last month supporters still did not have the votes to make a change with a 3-4 vote by the school board.

Until board member Hugh McManus heard the number of suspensions had dropped because of a new intervention program.

“They gave the statistics and it was over a 90% reduction, if I remember correctly, in the last 24-25 years so — that just hit me, it’s time to end this policy and let’s go,” McManus said. “We want to do what’s best for the kids and it was data driven. I feel like that was such a concrete part of that whole thing.”

Tuesday’s vote will end suspensions for minor infractions, but it will be an option for more serious ones.

“Basically it’s in the area of drugs, violent behavior, any type of weapons, so that basically will be the narrative. It will still be up to the principal and his or her staff to make that decision in those areas,” McManus said.

Rawitsch says he and many others are surprised and pleased by the sudden turn of events.

“These are all teachable moments, opportunities to help our children and not kick them out of school,” Rawitsch said.

School board chair Stephanie Kraybill said in a statement “We are all very pleased to have come together as a Board to make this decision. Now on to developing and adopting the appropriate language for our existing Policy 4351 and to ensuring all schools and staff have the training and tools they need to successfully address the needs of all of our students, especially when they are exhibiting unacceptable behavior at school.”

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