CHAPEL HILL – Inconsistency in disciplinary policies has been an problem for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools System. Community members have called on the district to change discipline and suspension procedures, which they said unfairly target African-American and Latino students.
According to data collected by school officials, African-American and Latino students each make up about 12 percent of the student body but account for a majority of in-school suspensions.
It’s an issue that all CHCCS Board of Education hopefuls agreed needs to be addressed during WCHL’s Candidate Forum on Monday .
The four candidates competing for three open spots on the Board are incumbents Michelle Brownstein and James Barrett, and the challengers are Ignacio Tzoumas and Andrew Davidson.
**Hear WCHL’s full CHCCS Board Candidate Forum below**
Brownstein, who was elected in 2009 and currently serves as Chair of the Board, said steps have already been taken to improve training for the school resource officers on handling incidents with students.
“That already is changing. They are already being folded-in in terms of professional development for them to get that information and to work more alongside with our teachers,” Brownstein said. “The issue is complex. It is one of the main focuses of our long-range plan, and it is something that will be addressed this year.”
Barrett, who was elected to the Board in 2011, said he agreed with Brownstein and added that teacher training could also be improved.
“We’ve begun that conversation, and that conversation is not deeds, and we need to move on to deeds,” Barrett said. “I am proud that we’ve started that conversation. I think we need to look at things that are classroom management issues. One of the top reasons for suspensions is disrespect.”
Tzoumas said if he were elected to the Board, he would focus on reaching out to the minority communities to discuss policies and how to ensure equality for all students.
“This is always going to be a problem; it always has been a problem for most counties that are growing rapidly when you are getting new influx of population and you need to bring in community members,” Tzoumas said. “It has to be a one-on-one kind of thing to get over these types of issues.”
Davidson said that teachers and staff members should avoid using language in the classroom that labels the child as a “troublemaker.”
“It’s a professional development issue largely, I think the better trained our teachers and staff are in how to handle kids and how to identify issues at home and mental health issues, I think that is going to go a long way,” Davidson said.
Early voting for the Nov. 5 municipal and Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board elections is underway now.