Solutions Not Suspensions

In the fall of 2013 YOI, along with Educational Justice Alliance and NC HEAT kicked off a Campaign calling for a pause on Out-of-School Suspensions in Wake County and a Moratorium on out-of-school suspensions for Level 1 offenses. 

In the 2011-2012 school year, over 14,000 students in Wake County were suspended from school. Students of color, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities were suspended at disproportionately high rates. During the pause, we call for administrators, teachers, parents and community members to study the racial disparities in Wake County’s suspensions, consider alternatives and then implement research based, restorative justice practices in Wake County schools. 

In 2013-2014 in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), African American students make up 25% of the student population but 62% of total suspensions. Additionally, in 2013-2014 while Black students made up 25% of the student population, nearly 80% received school-based delinquency complaints. Achievement gaps between Black and white students in 2013-2014 for the reading and math end of grade were 41 points and 44.9 points, respectively.

Over the past 5 years as we’ve worked on a Solutions Not Suspensions Campaign, in collaboration with local partners and national with the Dignity in Schools Campaign. We are fighting for moratorium on out of school suspensions for all Level 1 infractions, more restorative justice programs, and fewer (or no) cops in our schools. Since we launched our campaign in 2013, suspensions both long term and short term have declined. Yet, disparities still remain with Black and Latino students making up the majority of suspensions.

Zooming out from WCPSS, North Carolina is second to last in terms of per pupil spending and has the lowest teacher pay. The disproportionate spending on school resource officers and policing instead of teachers, counselors, and classroom materials compound the issue of discriminatory and punitive disciplinary actions in the classroom. Whether or not students graduate from high school, they are being funneled into underpaid jobs with no worker protections. If they are able to go to college, they face some of the steepest tuition hikes in history. The regressive attacks on all aspects of education in our community are taking a toll on our young people.

Our Solutions Not Suspensions campaign aims to build local, grassroots power over decisions and policies regarding our schools. We are fighting for concrete changes that address systemic racism and implicit bias prevalent in our classrooms and communities. We want more counselors in our schools and no cops. We want community controlled restorative justice programs that address harms and produces solutions to our problems, not dispose of young people for their mistakes. We want an education system that prioritizes students over profits and private prisons. Most of all, we want to create a society where young people are valued for their struggles, knowledge, and contributions.

Investing in education, not punitive systems that funnel youth from classrooms into jail cells changes the lived reality of youth of color. Alleviating some of the prison-like characteristics of our classrooms opens dialogue about how our current education system is a working part of the prison industrial complex.

Youth of color and their families—specifically Black and Latin@ youth and families—are most affected and concerned with the issues of school discipline and the school-to-prison-pipeline. The youth organizers who lead the campaign are often youth who have had firsthand experiences with school pushout. Our theory of change centers the leadership and decision making of those directly impacted by injustices.

To join our campaign or for more information, please fill out the interest form below or contact our Campaign Director Santos Flores, santos@empoweryouthnc.org