CCS and NAACP Work to Help Students Succeed
Published by Angel Hoggard on September 27, 2019

Fayetteville, NC – Cumberland County Schools (CCS) and the Cumberland County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) are working together to review current strategies and develop new approaches to embrace restorative practices and reduce out-of-school suspensions.

Dozens of community stakeholders recently filled a meeting room at the Cliffdale Regional Branch Library for a School Discipline Forum. The forum, titled Alternatives to Suspensions: Rethinking School Discipline, provided information on the effects of suspensions, efforts to stop the school-to-prison pipeline and how the community can work together to improve academic and life outcomes for CCS students.

Several speakers addressed participants at the forum, including Peggy Nicholson from the Youth Justice Project and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Letha Muhammad from the Education Justice Alliance and CCS’ Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr.

Nicholson applauded CCS for the work being done to reduce suspensions and racial inequities, while noting that there is still more work to be done. She provided two major strategies to help CCS move forward:

  1. Increasing Institutional Equity
    • Equity Office with full-time staff
    • Equity Policy & Plan with measurable goals and action steps
    • Racial Equity training for school staff and leaders
    • School-Based equity teams
    • Equity Task Force co-chaired by community members
    • Regular public release and review of data
  2. Decreasing suspensions and court referrals
    • Policy changes to limit suspensions
    • Expanding restorative justice practices and other alternatives
    • School-justice partnerships

Dr. Connelly shared a variety of strategies that school officials currently use to reduce suspensions in CCS, including conferences with students and parents, Restorative Justice Practices, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Therapeutic Day Treatment Services.

“A suspension is not discipline—it is the consequence of an action,” said Dr. Connelly. “As the superintendent, my job is to provide a safe learning environment for students and staff, so sometimes suspensions are unavoidable. However, when students are not in school, they cannot learn. We’re committed to reviewing policies and procedures through an equity lens, with the goal of reducing the number of out-of-school suspensions and expanding alternatives to suspensions.”
“The forum was a call to action to create better outcomes for our youth,” said Emily Chapman Grimes, Education Committee Chair for the NAACP. “We’ve talked about racial disparities in school suspensions for far too long. It’s time to do something. School leadership, community members, the NAACP and its coalition partners are ready to collaborate to create better outcomes for the youth in Cumberland County.”
While noting the progress the school system is making in the area of suspensions, Dr. Connelly also acknowledged racial disproportionalities that exist in CCS and schools across the nation. He expressed his desire for the continued engagement of community organizations such as the NAACP. “Our Strategic Plan provides a clear road map to help us move forward and ensure that all students reach their maximum potential,” said Dr. Connelly. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but together, we can do it.”

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