The Wake County Board of Education has voted to update its discipline policy.
The changes will limit the number of students in long-term suspension, according to Bren Elliot, Wake's Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services, adding that principals will have more discretion to transfer students to an alternative web-based education track called SCORE.
"We have a little more than 200 students each year," Elliot said. "They're ending up with a long-term suspension, which means that they have no access to the education during their time that they're suspended [from] school," Elliott said. "So, what we're trying to do is remove any barriers to them having access to an alternative learning program during their suspension."
But Peggy Nicholson, co-director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice's Youth Justice Project, says it isn't clear that a shorter list of long-term suspensions will result in more students staying on track.
"What the proposed change could do is allow Wake County to start reporting really low, long-term suspension numbers, but only because they're just reassigning those students to poorer-quality alternative schools," Nicholson said. "Which is what would have happened to those students even if they had gotten a long-term suspension, and it had been reported as a long-term suspension."
Nicholson cites a North Carolina Legal Aid public records request from 2015 that showed 1 in 3 Wake County students in the SCORE program last year had to repeat a grade.