Wake County schools: OCR closes investigation into student discipline

T Keung Hui :

The federal government has agreed to close its long-running investigation into how the Wake County school system handles school discipline, following changes that have reduced how many students are suspended.

In 2010, the state NAACP and several other groups filed a federal civil rights complaint accusing the Wake school system of discrimination because of how black students are suspended at such high rates compared to their share of the student population.

In a voluntary settlement announced Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has agreed to close the case by 2021 if the district continues with the changes it has adopted since the investigation began and make further revisions.

“We are pleased to reach an agreement with the Office of Civil Rights in these areas and look forward to continued improvement in suspension rates,” school board chairwoman Monika Johnston-Hostler said in a written statement. “We are grateful OCR recognized the work already underway and the district’s efforts to ensure future progress.”

In the 2016-17 school year, African-American students accounted for 60 percent of Wake’s suspensions while only representing 23.5 percent of the total enrollment. But the number of out-of-school suspensions in Wake dropped 25 percent between the 2012-13 and 2016-17 school years, even as enrollment went up 9 percent.

Related: The Madison School District and the Office of Civil Rights.