Raleigh NC—On February 3, NC HEAT (NC Heros Emerging Among Teens), EJA (Education Justice Alliance) and The Youth Organizing Institute mobilized to the Superintendent Forum/listening tour at Southeast Raleigh High School. While we were grateful that Dr. Merrill, the new superintendent of Wake County schools, held the forum we are looking forward to engaging with more meaningful dialogue in the future.
Like in 2011 (pictured left), NC HEAT presented the new superintendent with a cake and balloons as a welcome gift and a challenge (pictured below). The cake delivered read “14,184” which is the number of suspensions that took place in 2011-2012. While this number has decreased from the over 20,000 suspensions annually Wake County was accustomed to, we still have a long way to go.
“In 2011-2012 students with disabilities made up 12.6% of the student population yet they were 31.5% of suspended students. Black students made up 24.7% of school population but over 60% of those suspended,” stated Sanyu Gichie of the Youth Organizing Institute and alumni of the Wake County school system. “We need more school based counselors and social workers, we need preventative practices such as peer mediation and restorative justice. Students do not learn by simply being suspended from school.”
Other members of NC HEAT and the Education Justice Alliance commented about the excessive policing in schools, the need for more data collection on school based arrest, and called for a change/Moratorium for Out-Of-School-Suspensions policy. The coalition is demanding that Superintendent Dr. Merrill have a meeting with those most impacted by the School-To-Prison-Pipeline and give a timeline for when new discipline policies will be introduced an implemented.
“Speaking out in forums such as this one can be frustrating when it feels like there is little feedback and action relating to issues that devastate our school communities,” Said Elena Ehrlich NC HEAT member and student at Cary High School. “The policies currently in place have been taking away opportunities and the right to education for thousands of students annually. We need a timeline for when new policies will be implemented and they need to happen very soon.”
While we were disappointed Dr. Merrill would not take a picture with us, we will continue to extend a hand in friendship. Maybe next time he can let us know if he prefers brownies or cupcakes.