Student Discipline

“We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

– Michelle Alexander



What’s at Stake

Mass incarceration is now referred to as the “new face of racial discrimination.” There has been a six-fold increase in the number of people imprisoned in the U.S. since 1970.

But what does prison have to do with the classroom? Too often, the classroom is where the “pipeline” or pathway to prison begins.

Great Schools in Wake and its coalition partners believe that schools should be safe and fair for ALL students. There are well-documented programs that mitigate student “pushout” without jeopardizing school safety and could easily be adopted in Wake County. If we want to increase student achievement and graduation rates, we need to carefully examine and reform our student discipline policies and practices.


The Facts

Wake County NC has a huge school-to-prison pipeline. During the 2012-13 school year, the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) had:

  • 15,378 short-term suspensions (i.e., suspensions lasting one to ten school days), 334 long-term suspensions (i.e., suspensions lasting 11 school days or more; typically for the rest of the school year); three 365-day suspensions; and eight expulsions (i.e., indefinite removals)
  • Enloe High School alone suspended 395 individual students
  • 3,688 out-of-school suspensions (OSS) for Level I offenses – the most minor offenses that generally are not supposed to result in OSS
  • 702 school-based delinquency complaints (42% of all delinquency complaints) against students age 15 and younger
  • huge racial disparities—Black students were 24% of the student population but received 61% of suspensions and 62% of school-based delinquency complaints, and were 71% of the alternative school population; 19% of Black male students were suspended at least once
  • huge disability disparities—Students with disabilities were 13% of the student population but were 32% of suspended students

Students who are suspended are at a much greater risk of academic failure, behavioral problems, and psychological issues.


Learn More:

February 2014: New Video Spotlights School-to-Prison Pipeline in Wake County

January 2014: New Video about North Carolina’s School-to-Prison Pipeline

January 2014: Complaint Filed with the U.S. Department of Justice Details Criminalization of Students in the Wake County Public School System

August 2013 Report: The State of the School-to-Prison Pipeline in the Wake County Public School System

April 2013 Op-Ed: NC Lawmakers Widening the School-to-prison Pipeline

January 2013: Wake County Reaches Agreement to Improve Services for Suspended Students with Disabilities

April 2012 Video: School-to-Prison Pipeline Forum Held at NC State University

August 2011: State Finds Wake Violated Law for Suspended Students with Disabilities, Again

February 2011 Study: Law Enforcement Officers in Wake County Schools

December 2009 Issue Brief: Zero Tolerance for the School-to-Prison Pipeline in Wake County