North Carolina schools are not the only primary and secondary educational institutions faced with the new task of clarifying that their social and academic methods benefit all students. Students, parents, and local and national activist are now using disproportionate discipline to measure school effectiveness. North Carolina schools have used several initiatives to eliminate disproportionate discipline with no progress in sight.
As a matter of fact, the new methods have created an increase in disproportionate discipline for students of color. A recent report card that uses public data on academic achievement, school discipline, and juvenile court involvement provides a picture of all 115 North Carolina school districts and the state. The Racial Equity Report Card reveals that North Carolina schools are more likely to suspend Blacks students when compared to other students in the state. During the 2015-16 school year, Black students in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system were 10 times more likely to be suspended than White students, 8.7 times more likely in Durham and 7.8 times more likely in Wake County.
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In the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, the Board of Education has adopted a series of policies on student behavior, and all schools have developed school-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) teams to set expectations for behavior so that students are aware of permissible and impermissible behavior. PBIS helps maintain effective school-wide disciplinary practices and provide a predictable and safe environment in which students have clear expectations and positive relationships with peers and adults.
In the Wake County Public Schools, principals received a stronger reminder that they should think about the impact suspensions will have on students before keeping them out of school. The Wake County school board approved changes in the Code of Student Conduct that govern how schools handle student discipline. The changes ranged from clarifying how suspensions are to be handled for low-level infractions to including additional wording that encourages the use of alternatives to out-of-school suspensions.
In the Durham Public Schools, the school board opted to revise the student code of conduct. According to officials, the revised student code of conduct better embodies the school district’s philosophy of rewarding positive behavior, and getting to the core of the unwanted behaviors. The major changes include disciplinary measures that are “graduated responses” — breaking suspensions into smaller ranges of days — and are “developmentally appropriate,” by grade level. For example, there is no out-of-school suspension for elementary school students. Principals will still have flexibility on disciplinary actions, suspensions will no longer be mandated for plagiarism, dress-code violations, minor disruptive behavior or possession of cell phones or tablets such as iPads.
The struggle for North Carolina Schools continues. We have to applaud the efforts of the cited school districts. However, the results are disastrous and students of color will continue their matriculation into prisons via schools unless alternative measures are taken.
North Carolina schools and other schools must take three factors into consideration before continuing their efforts. That first fallacy is the transitional process that most school districts utilize. In the present circumstance, most school districts have a knee jerk response which results in wholesale reform changes. North Carolina schools would have benefited from piloting several variations of the school code of conduct at different levels. This would have made the school responsive to the needs of their students while ensuring that their transitional efforts were effective. For those that proved ineffective the associated embarrassments would be minimized.
Secondly, schools must entertain the though that their instructional methods are outdated or at least do not meet the needs of their students. It is a well known fact that some students will fight their way out of school before becoming embarrassed in front of their peers for lack classroom success.
Finally, schools must remove the gray areas that lead to many of the disciplinary infractions. Student behaviors that violate the student code of conduct must be clearly defined and the latitude to allow external factors become the primary vehicle for determining the consequences must be eliminated. North Carolina schools can only become good by eliminating disproportionate discipline which results in stagnated student achievements.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
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Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools
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