Suspensions up slightly in Durham schools
Short-term suspensions in Durham Public Schools, those lasting fewer than 10 days, increased slightly last school year, according to state data released Wednesday.
According to the North Carolina Consolidated Data Report for 2012-13, there were 6,020 short-term suspensions across the school district compared to 5,934 during the 2011-12 school year, an increase of 1.4 percent.
Statewide, short-term suspensions decreased 4 percent -- from a 2011-12 total of 258,197 to 247,919 in 2012-13.
DPS saw a slight decrease in long-term suspensions, or those lasting more than 10 days.
There were seven fewer long-term suspensions – 54 -- during the 2012-13 school year compared to 61 the previous year.
No students were expelled from DPS during the 2012-13 school year.
Black males continued to receive the largest number of short-term suspensions in Durham Public Schools, racking up 3,475 during the 2012-13 school, which is 57.7 percent of the entire suspensions handed out.
African-American males were followed by black females who accounted for 1,352 of the districts 6,020 short-term suspensions for 2012-13.
Hispanic males and females received 579 and 209 short-term suspensions respectively during the 2012-13 school year.
White males were suspended 219 times and white females 72.
Meanwhile, the school district saw modest improvement in short-term suspensions among high school students.
According to the report, DPS handed out 2,721 short-term suspensions to high-schoolers during the 2012-13 school year compared to 3,179 during the 2011-12 school year.
That’s a difference of 458 short-term suspensions or a 14 percent decrease.
In all North Carolina school districts, there were 111,122 short-term suspensions for high-schoolers reported in 2012-13, a decrease of 9.4 percent from the 2011-12 total of 122,655.
In Durham, school officials credit a renewed focus on Positive Behavior Intervention Support and the flexibility for school administrators to take into consideration mitigating circumstances when handing out suspensions for the improved numbers among high school students.
“We’re continuing to focus on suspensions, not only on how equitably they are applied in our schools but also how we prevent the need for them in the first place,” said Interim Superintendent Hugh Osteen. “This is good news at the high school level but we have more work to do.”
Suspensions have been a major topic of discussion in Durham, particularly those involving black students and students with learning disabilities.
A federal complaint was filed against DPS last year, alleging that its policies yield a disproportionate number of suspensions of black and Hispanic students and students with disabilities.
The complaint was filed by Advocates for Children’s Services of Legal Aid of North Carolina on behalf of a middle school student with a disability who was suspended for 34 school days during the 2012-13 school year and received no educational services during the suspension.
The number of reportable acts of crime and violence increased slightly in Durham’s schools, from 333 in 2011-12 to 351 in 2012-13.
The school districts reported 160 incidents of students possessing controlled substances, which accounted for the largest number of all reportable offenses.
It was followed by possession of a weapon at 142, assault on school personnel at 14 and sexual assault at eight.
Four of the eight sexual assaults were reported at Carrington Middle School.
Across the state, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a weapon excluding firearms and powerful explosives and possession of an alcoholic beverage accounted for the bulk of reportable crimes in high school.
Dropout rate improves
The dropout rate continued to decline for Durham Public Schools for a sixth straight year.
The rate fell from 3.55 percent in 2011-12 to 3.22 percent in 2012-13 and the number of students quitting school fell 11 percent, from 362 to 323.
DPS officials credited more student support through school social workers and counselors and the school district’s recruitment of students over the summer to re-enroll in programs such as Performance Learning Center and Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy.
They also cited the district’s Early Warning Tracking System that was developed in partnership with the Duke University Office of Durham and Regional Affairs and a general diploma option that meets state graduation standards for students not yet seeking higher education.
“We’re committed to working with every individual student to keep them engaged in school and prepared for careers and college,” Osteen said. “We’re helping them commit to a brighter future.”
The dropout rate across the state decreased 18.6 percent, with 11,049 dropouts last year compared to 13,488 in the 2011-12 school year.