District seeks solutions to student suspension rates
Durham Public Schools will hold three public meetings in December so the community can help develop solutions to lower the school district’s suspension rate.
A federal complaint was filed against the school district earlier this year, alleging that its policies yield a disproportionate suspension of black and Hispanic students, particularly black males and black students with disabilities.
Debbie Pitman, assistant superintendent for student, family and community services, said Thursday that the meetings will help the school district better understand the issue from the community’s point of view and let residents offer recommendations about how to best address the problem.
Pitman noted that, at a recent school board meeting, residents and community organizations expressed a willingness to help develop strategies to lower the suspension rate and improve responses to disciplinary problems.
“The board thought it would be a welcoming format to offer a number of community conversations to hear families and the community around the issues,” Pitman said. “We were so appreciative of the outpouring of support to work with us toward a public solution for our children.”
Pitman said school officials will analyze the public’s recommendations and “determine what the next steps are as a district.”
The meetings were announced during Thursday’s school board meeting by Superintendent Eric Becoats, a day after DPS announced a new program for students serving suspensions of 10 days or more.
The program for middle and high school students will be held at the Lakeview School Short-Term Intervention Center.
That program is a response to a complaint 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 a total of 34 school days during the 2012-13 school year and received no educational services during the suspension.