CMS tackling K-2 suspension numbers

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox released second quarter K-2 suspension numbers for the district at Tuesday night's board meeting.

Numbers show suspension numbers are going down but minority students are still getting suspended at a higher rate than white students. CMS school board wants to see if there is a better way to discipline students, as young as five years old, rather than suspension.

Numbers show this time last year CMS suspended 367 students in grades K-2 from school.  So far this year 48 students as young as 5 were suspended. Board member Ruby Jones said that decrease was jaw dropping. Other board members wanted more information about how the district got the numbers dramatically down.

"My question is show your work," CMS School Board Member Ericka Ellis Stewart said. "Prove our effectiveness and make me believe that these number changes aren't too good to be true. It has been a short period of time and I want to make sure what we are doing without a shadow of a doubt we can track back to the interventions that we are implementing."

CMS staff did tell board members there were interventions that were done, school staff counseled students and there were conferences with parents.

Board members asked CMS staff to provide more information.  CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox admonished board members to think about asking staff to do more on K-2 suspensions because it's taking away from their other work.  He wanted board member to appreciate the work staff has already done.

"While the board is not necessarily celebrating this," Wilcox said. "I am. I think you have done a wonderful job."

Board members said they do appreciate what the staff has done but still wanted more information. While the suspension numbers are down - African American students are still get suspended at a much higher rate than what students.  This year 36 African American K-2 students got suspended compared to four white students.

"We need to solve that disproportionate mystery," CMS School Board member Elsye Dashew said. "We need to solve that probolem.  We have not cracked that yet and we urgently need to."

Tuckaseegee Elementary School is working on keeping its K-2 suspension numbers down. There have been more than 40 referrals for suspension for students in K-2 grade so far this school year.  The school suspended none.

"Those kids are trainable and teachable," Tuckaseegee Elementary School counselor Isaac Murray said. "They are not as rigid in their demands."

Tuckaseegee teaches students how to behave, instead of the first thing  suspending them.

"We really adopted the school climate of 'be responsible, be respectful, and be safe,'"  Tuckaseegee Elementary School Counselor Brie Gabriel said. "Those are our three school-wide expectations."

CMS Superintendent is telling principals to rethink how they suspend and to try other options. Staff at Tuckaseegee are concerned African American students especially black male student getting suspended at a higher rate than white males.

"Being an African American," Murray said. "I have to say that is always a concern that hasn't changed over time."

CMS believes with more cultural competency training and teaching students how to behave, suspension numbers will go down across the board.

To read the K-2 Suspension report, click here.

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