LAURINBURG — Staste Rep. Garland Pierce will help lead a fact-finding tour on why there seems to be a disproportionate number of suspension and dropouts among minority students across North Carolina.
Pierce, who chairman of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, is expected to hold a press conference this morning in Winston-Salem, to kick off the NCLBC Education Tour. Caucus members will be joined at the press event by the Minister Conference of Winston Salem.
“The tour is a fact-finding tour on the dropout and suspension rates of our youth,” said Pierce, a Wagram Democrat. “We plan to visit schools that are doing well along with those not doing well and come up with an action plan.”
The tour was prompted by a report released last month by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, which showed high suspension rates for North Carolina’s minority students.
The rate of short-term suspensions, about 3 for every 10 black students in North Carolina, more than tripled that for white students. And for long-term suspensions, the rate—about 153 per every 100,000 black students—more than quadrupled the rate for white students, according to DPI data.
State policies allow for administrators to employ in-school or short-term suspensions, which allow for out-of-school suspension of one to 10 days. More serious offenses could be punished with long-term, out-of-school suspension from 11 days to the remainder of the school year.
While Scotland County saw its suspension decrease during the 2014-2015, there were 1,514 short-term suspensions and four long-term suspensions.
Broken down by race and gender, black males made up the largest number of short term suspensions at 779; black females at 263; white males at 172; American Indian males at 128; American Indian females at 42, white females at 42; Hispanic males at 20; and Hispanic females at 13.
The report also focused on dropouts where in Scotland County, there were a total of 97 dropouts during the past school year. Of those, 58 were male and 39 were female. Blacks were among the highest number of dropouts at 38, followed by American Indian students at 27 and whites at 24.
There were 80 dropouts in Scotland County the previous year for an increase of 21.3 percent, the report said. Statewide, high schools in North Carolina reported 11,190 dropouts in 2014-15.
In addition to visiting at least four school districts, Pierce said the group plans to hold town hall meetings to talk with parents and the community about the challenges they see.
“We’ve got to really look at this issue to see what we’re doing and not doing,” Pierce said. “It is not about trying to blame the system, because parents have got to step up too.
“This is not a new issue, but it has gone to a new level when you are look at that many young people in trouble.When I was a kid, being a dropout was not a badge of honor. Something has got to be done. You need a high school education.”
Scotland School Superintendent Ron Hargrave said the local school district has implemented a number of efforts, including a drop-in program for students that may have circumstances in their lives like having a child at home and no childcare during the day or having to work.
Pierce said the tour’s findings will be shared with members of the General Assembly during the next long session of the state legislature.
He added that the tour is being undertaken in honor of former state Sen. Earline Parmon,who passed away recently. Parmon was the first black state senator to represent Forsyth County and a longtime advocate of education.
“Education and dropout rates were very important issues for former Sen Earline Parmon,” said Pierce. “This tour will be in honor of former Sen. Parmon and her tireless efforts to ensure all our youth are educated. We plan to meet with school administrators and educators throughout North Carolina to determine where we can close the education gap and keep our children in school.”
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023