Forum to address school discipline, success
CHAPEL HILL, Feb 01, 2013 (The Herald-Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A group of community organizations will gather today in Carrboro to discuss discipline and student success in the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools.
Titled "Punishment & Policing in Our Schools," the community forum will be 1-4 p.m., at the Carrboro Century Center at 100 N. Greensboro St.
Organizers said the event is being held in response to community concerns about a disparity in discipline and suspensions among African American and Hispanic students and their white counterparts.
"In 2011, African American students made up 11 percent of the students in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, but were 61 percent of the students who received short-term suspensions," said Will Hendrick, chairman of the Town Council's Justice in Action Committee.
Short-term suspensions are those lasting 10 days or less.
The committee is a co-sponsor of the event organized by Chapel Hill-Carrboro Citizens Advocating for Racial Equity (CARE).
Other co-sponsors include Community Education Collaborative, Organizing Against Racism Alliance, Hidden Voices and the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
Furthermore, Hendrick said African American, Hispanic and multi-racial students make up 50 percent of the students in the district, but received 80 percent of short-term suspensions.
Although the district's short-term suspension rate of 3.59 per 100 students in grades K-13 for school year 2011-12 is much lower than the state average of 17.66 per 100, Hendrick said parents and other concerned citizens still worry that too many black and Hispanics students are being suspended for relatively minor infractions.
"Incidents that used to result in a paddling now result in prosecution," Hendrick said.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools' 3.59 short-term suspension rate is also much lower than other school districts. For example, the rates are 6.85 in Orange, 9.75 in Wake and 18.35 in Durham.
Still, Hendrick said, the forum, which will be attended by local law enforcement, school and court officials, is not intended to be a "finger-pointing" session.
Instead, he said the organizers are looking to find common ground, identify problems that exist and develop solutions.
"The point of this is to educate and to learn from different perspectives," Hendrick said. "I think it will really be a productive discussion."
Featured speakers for the event will include James E. Williams, public defender for Orange and Chatham counties, and Mark Dorosin, Orange County commissioner.
The public is encouraged to attend and participate in a brainstorming session following two panel presentations.
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