Orange County leaders asked school officials Tuesday night what they were doing to address racial disparities in student discipline

The board of Orange County Schools (OCS) last month adopted an equity policy aimed specifically at addressing racial disparities in achievement and discipline.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) had an equity plan in place, but the district has recently emerged. News & Observer article based on a study by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice as noted by Commissioner Mark Dorosin, his black students were 13.9 times more likely than their white counterparts to be briefly suspended.

"I know it's been a problem for a long time, and what kind of progress is made if any?" Dorosin asked the school representatives.

The rate of CHCCS is significantly higher than that of the whole country, which shows that black students are 4.3 times more likely to be subject to a short-term suspension. In Durham Public Schools, the rate is 9.7 more likely and in Wake County schools it is 6.8.

"This is a vital issue that needs to be addressed," said Commissioner Renee Price. Speaking of black students she heard about, she said, "It's really pretty heartbreaking. They say the same things we said 40 or 50 years ago. "

Amy Fowler, member of the CHCHS Board of Directors, pointed out that office referrals for black students declined last year, but that those of all students declined, leaving a racial disparity.

Restorative practices

"Of course, we are working on it and we are not surprised by our data," said Pamela Baldwin, CHCCS Superintendent, about the discrepancy in suspensions.

Baldwin said that she expects to see improvements because the use of restorative practices become more common throughout the district. Restorative practices focus on repairing wrongs and restoring relationships rather than just punishment.

Baldwin also pointed out that work to address mental health needs has a positive effect on racial disparity, as well as training of teachers and principals to "be proactive and relate to needs." students before an incident occurs. "

OCS Director Todd Wirt also spoke of the positive effects of the repair practices, saying the district had trained nearly 65% ​​of employees in repair practices and was considering training bus drivers and cafeteria repair practices. The district is also working on a new code of conduct that it hopes to share with commissioners in April, said Wirt.

Wirt also referred to the recently approved equity policy of the district.

"In the first paragraph of our policy," he said, "he recognizes that we have intolerance, inequities and disparities in our system.It is not an accusation that we have a full staff racism in our school system, I do not meet these people when I'm in our schools, what we have are practices, policies and things in place that continue to be implemented year after year in a school. unintentionally, which has led to disparities. "

Charter School Challenges

Dorosin also questioned the school representatives about challenge of charter schools for OCS.

Proponents of traditional public schools argue that charter schools, which are funded like public schools but do not have the same control, drain much needed resources from traditional public schools. Of more than 8,000 OCS students expected for the next school year, nearly 850 will attend charters.

Charters are a less important issue for CHCCS, where out of more than 12,000 students, only 115 attend charters.

OCS has lost 29 positions in the past three years due to the loss of registrations, Wirt said. "It certainly has an impact on our system," he said. Commissioner

Earl McKee asked if it would be advantageous to have a chartered school representative come to the council. Several commissioners said it was a good idea, but Wirt warned that he would not be in favor of such a representative asking for more money allocated to charter schools.