Supporters of the old Wake County diversity policy are making no bones about the fact that they're going after the school system at Friday's Stand Against Racism event at noon in Moore Square in downtown Raleigh.
Before last year's event, sponsors from the YWCA of the Greater Triangle event downplayed ahead of time that they'd be discussing the Wake school system. But it turned into a heated attack of the school board majority.
This time, organizers say they're targeting "systemic racism embedded in policies of the Wake County Public School System," namely the student suspension and discipline polices. It's one of the arguments that was used in the NAACP complaint of Wake that's being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
Organizers say they intend to highlight the grassroots being done by N.C. HEAT.
Ironically, the current school board has done more to address suspension issues than its predecessors.
The press release acknowledges that the board changed the definition of a long-term suspension so that it no longer automatically runs through the end of the school year. But organizers say that's not enough because there "there have been no other major policy changes to reverse this school-to-prison pipeline."
Under interim Supt. Donna Hargens, staff had asked for more time to conduct the overhaul of the discipline policies. How new Supt. Tony Tata will handle it remains to be seen.
But in the interim, school administrators say they've already seen sharp drops in the number of student suspensions this school year, continuing a trend begun in the 2009-10 school year.
Here's the event press release:
Community to Stand Against Racism and Disparities in Wake County Schools
April 29 community event to spotlight alarming school-to-prison pipeline
RALEIGH, N.C. — A growing number of area schools, businesses and civic organizations that are committed to excellence in public education have pledged to join the YWCA Greater Triangle for the “Stand Against Racism” at noon on April 29 in Raleigh’s Moore Square. The Stand Against Racism is a national movement to raise awareness that racism still exists and harms communities, dividing people of different backgrounds with a negative impact on education, employment, housing and other qualities of life. Gov. Beverly Perdue has once again proclaimed April 29 as “Stand Against Racism Day” in North Carolina. Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker also has established an official proclamation. The public is invited to participate.
On April 29, the YWCA and various civic groups will address policies rooted in historic legacies of racism that come at great cost to this community. Specifically, they will spotlight systemic racism embedded in policies of the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), which have played a major role in creating and maintaining North Carolina's alarmingly large school-to-prison pipeline. These policies push students out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
The most startling fact: North Carolina has the fourth highest total number and the third highest rate of suspensions in the nation. Similarly, students of color, low-income students, English language learners and students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined, suspended and expelled from public schools. The YWCA and various civic groups concerned with these persistent racial academic achievement gaps are asking citizens to Stand Against Racism on April 29.
Other startling facts include: over a five-year period (2004-05 to 2008-09), WCPSS had 106,333 short-term suspension (an average of 21,267 per year) and 5,187 long-term suspensions (an average of 1,037 per year). Moreover, over a four-year period (2005-06 to 2008-09), on average, black students made up 26.5 percent of all students in WCPSS, yet received 63.7 percent of short-term suspensions. Similarly, they received 69.2 percent of long-term suspensions, and 96.9 percent of expulsions.
“When such shocking statistics are combined with the district's high number of school-based court referrals and lack of high-quality alternative learning programs, our most vulnerable children find themselves abandoned to the streets, the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and bleak futures,” said Jason Langberg, an attorney with Advocates of Children’s Services, a statewide project of Legal Aid of North Carolina.
These problems have drawn anger from area parents and advocates, and ongoing negative attention from national media, as well as a Title VI investigation from the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education.
The Stand Against Racism also will highlight grassroots efforts of the Southeast Raleigh-based Parent Advocacy Work Group and NC Heroes Emerging Among Teens (NC HEAT). It will include visionary, courageous teachers and administrators working to close achievement gaps and ensure equity and excellence in public schools. During the Stand Against Racism, these groups will offer research-based best practices and policy recommendations for discipline and school culture reform.
“Education is intertwined with other social and economic justice issues, because they share the same systemic roots with racism and classism,” said Bridgette Burge, director of advocacy and community initiatives at the YWCA. “We can and must do better for the futures of our youth, our community and our society.”
Although the school board recently changed the definition of “long-term suspension,” so far, there have been no other major policy changes to reverse this school-to-prison pipeline. The YWCA and Advocates for Children’s Services have presented to the Wake County Board of Education a series of recommended policy reforms. Those reforms include: elimination of zero tolerance practices, graduated interventions and consequences to address misbehavior, as well as more positive alternatives to suspension. Suggested alternatives include mediation and restorative justice programs, and mandatory, high-quality training for teachers and administrators on topics of cultural competency, recognizing racism and resolving equity issues.
Many organizations have pledged to take a leadership role in the community to join the YWCA in Moore Square on April 29, including: Legal Aid of N.C. Advocates for Children’s Services, N.C. Heroes Emerging Among Teens, Parent Advocacy Work Group, Black Workers for Justice, N.C. Justice Center, Community United Church of Christ Study Circle, Moore Square Study Circle, Education Justice Alliance, Muslim American Society Immigrant Justice Center, Moore Square Museums Magnet Middle School, Interfaith Food Shuttle, Heirs to a Fighting Tradition, So Lady Entertainment, Project Ricochet, The Center for Child and Family Health, The Beast, Poetic Justice, Interact of Wake County, N.C. State University students, Hope for Hunter Elementary, and Golden Oaks Seniors Program, among many others.
· WHAT: Stand Against Racism: Addressing the Wake County School-to-Prison Pipeline
· WHEN: Noon to 1:00 p.m.; Friday, April 29
· WHERE: Moore Square in downtown Raleigh
· HOW TO JOIN: Individuals and groups are urged to participate, or host any kind of event or dialogue about dismantling racism at their own location. Participation is free and sign up is simple: www.StandAgainstRacism.org.
After having sent out another release this morning promoting the event, organizers just sent out a message this afternoon saying it's been postponed until August.