MEDIA RELEASE: Safe Schools, Fair Schools campaign launches pro-education initiative

MEDIA RELEASE: Safe Schools, Fair Schools campaign launches pro-education initiative
North Carolina’s long-term suspension crisis threatens students’ right to an education, say experts

WHEN/WHERE: Tuesday, March 24, 2009, from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. in Room 236 of the Rudolph Jones Student Center at Fayetteville State University.

FAYETTEVILLE (March 24, 2009) – North Carolina suspends students at a rate 45 percent higher than the national average. This suspension crisis threatens students' right to an education, say experts, and put the state’s most vulnerable young people even further at risk.

“Morally, students have the right to an education,” said Beth Jacobs, education outreach coordinator for the NC Justice Center. “Practically, the overuse of long-term suspension in our schools threatens opportunity for an entire generation of young people.”

Because Cumberland County has the second-highest long-term suspension rate in the state, two local nonprofits began their Safe Schools, Fair Schools campaign with an event in Cumberland County at Fayetteville State University. The NC Justice Center and Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Advocates for Children's Services hosted a community forum on the issue at the university’s Rudolph Jones Student Center at Fayetteville State University.  This community forum was co-sponsored by Fayetteville State University’s Institute for Community Justice.

In the 2006-2007 school year, 213 Cumberland County students were removed from school without any educational services. At least one-third of those were for non-violent offenses such as tardiness or rule violations.

“Excluding students from schools without access to educational alternatives doesn’t make schools safer,” said Cary Brege, Equal Justice Works Fellow at Advocates for Children's Services. “We don’t need a band-aid approach that disproportionately affects our most at-risk students – we need real solutions that will keep kids in school and help them lead productive lives once they graduate.” 

The group is encouraged, Brege said, by the support they have received from the Cumberland County Board of Education.

“The board is working with us and the community to take a good, hard look at the situation and address the suspension crisis head-on,” she said.  

The American Psychological Association has found that suspension is ineffective in reducing school violence. It is effective, however, at increasing the dropout rate, which comes at great social cost. Suspended students are three times more likely to drop out, and studies show that one year’s “class” of dropouts costs North Carolina over $1.3 billion in prison, parole and welfare costs.

“The worst thing we can do for vulnerable students – and for society – is to remove their access to education,” said Renea Stackhouse, a parent and student advocate in Robeson and Cumberland counties. “The very students who are being suspended are those who need educational opportunities the most.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Beth Jacobs, 919.861.2064; Cary Brege, 919.610.9478.