By A.P. Dillon
Earlier this year, a video surfaced on Twitter of a fight taking place between two students at Apex High School. The video was circulated via a Twitter account called “@30SecFights.” There is a corresponding hashtag, #30SecondFights. For those viewing the Tweet, be warned, the replies to it are expletive and slur-laden.
Local media outlet WRAL reported that “since the beginning of the school year, Raleigh Police have responded to 209 fight calls at the city’s eight high schools.”
Bear in mind, North Carolina High schools typically run on a traditional calendar schedule and school commenced the first week of August for most of them. That translates to roughly about eight weeks of school at the time of the Apex High fight video. Using the 209 reported fight calls from WRAL, which breaks down to about 26.5 fights a week Raleigh Police responded to.
Apex High is outside of the Raleigh city limits, so it’s arguably unfair to lump this fight in with the calls mentioned by WRAL. However, that 209 number does make one curious as to what other calls Raleigh Police are getting from the area high schools.
Using the city of Raleigh’s iMAPS page, one can browse crime reports and even sort by a specific school. Taking a look at a few of the High schools available for viewing using iMAPS, there is more going on than calls for assaults.
For example, at Leesville Road High School between September 19th and October 20th, there was an instance of larceny, an instance of vandalism, four calls regarding drugs/paraphernalia, three simple assault calls and one weapons call.
During that same time frame at Southeast Raleigh High, there was one simple assault, one assault/communicating intimidating threats and one weapons charge. Wakefield High had a disorderly conduct call, one disorderly conduct call, a trespassing call, a vandalism call, a weapons/concealed carry call and one call for “child abuse/simple”.
Looking at the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) discipline report that includes “reportable crimes” statistics for each district, Wake County Schools had a total of 563 for the 2013-14 school year. According to the DPI report, there were 44,095 students in the county that school year. The number of short-term suspensions was close 11,000.
This number is down from previous years, and in fact down approximately 45 percent since 2010. The drop is largely attributed to alterations in 2011 to the suspension policy to a five-tiered system. The changes included minor offenses with mitigating circumstances to be assigned a different discipline outcome other than short-term suspension.
Looking closer at these suspensions, the DPI report breaks that number down by race. Black males lead the sort-term list with 4,853. White males and Hispanic males followed with 1,635 and 1,125 respectively. Black females totaled 1,900, while white and Hispanic females totaled 369 and 368. The black females’ short-term suspension rate was almost five times higher than that of the next highest counterparts.
Interestingly, even with the improvements in discipline rates, in 2014 a 74-page complaint was filed against multiple area police departments, the Wake County Sheriff’s Offices, and the Wake County Public School System. The complaint alleges that WCPSS policies “unlawfully discriminate against African-American students and SWD in violation of Title IV, Title VI, Section 504 and the ADA.”.
The parties listed as plaintiffs in the complaint include the parent of Blueprint NC, NC Justice Center, as well as the NC NAACP and multiple civil rights and child advocacy groups. Also on the list was Rukiya Dillahunt, representing the “Education Justice Alliance” and Qasima Wideman, a “youth organizer” with the North Carolina Heroes Emerging Among Teens.
Wideman is also associated with the Youth Organizing Institute, which has led protests alongside NC HEAT with regard to the perceived “school to prison pipeline.” The Youth Organizing Institute falls under a larger umbrella organization called Action for Community in Raleigh.
Dillahunt is the wife of Ajamu Dillahunt, the outreach coordinator at the NC Justice Center. Rukiya Dillahunt is also associated with the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children (CCCAAC), which pressed the Wake County School Board in 2014 to drop the practice of giving zeroes to students who didn’t turn in assignments, with particular emphasis on minority students.
Taking all of these pieces of information covered in this article together, a theme of emerges. Depending on how one looks at it, there seems to be a push to alter discipline and grading practices for the minority student subset of the student population in Wake County simply based on race. In other words, a theme of creating one set of expectations and policies for one group and a different set for another. Some might call these themes segregationist at best and, at worst, racist.