“Race and Current Events” Marks Beginning of Carolina Conversations

The first in the series of discussions entitled “Carolina Conversations” will be held Monday evening.

“Carolina Pulse: Race and Current Events” is scheduled to begin at 5 o’clock and run until 6:30 at the Aquarium Lounge of the FPG Student Union.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp says the university wants all of the students – no matter race, religion, identity, orientation, or any other difference – to feel they are being heard and valued on campus.

“What we’re trying to do is acknowledge that we want this campus to be a place where all of our students, without respect to any adjective that you put in front of them, and all of our faculty and all of our staff,” he says, “can feel accepted, can feel respected and included.”

Crisp adds the program will take many different shapes to provide varying venues where people of all different beliefs will have an outlet to express their opinion in a safe environment – from town hall-style events to smaller facilitated discussions.

You can find more information about Carolina Conversations, including details about upcoming events, here.


Report: CHCCS Discipline Disproportionately Impacts Minority Students

In Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools, an African American student is five times as likely as a white student to get in-school suspension, five times as likely to get out-of-school suspension, and three times as likely to get sent to the office. That’s according to an official school district report that looks at discipline data over the past two academic years.

At Thursday night’s meeting, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board member Jamezetta Bedford said we have to be careful in interpreting this data.

“All that shows you is that the risk for ISS (in-school suspension) discipline reaction is five to one,” said Bedford. “You can’t assume the child deserved it and did those actions.” She said some teachers and administrators may discriminate in whom they choose to discipline.

White students make up about half the district’s student population, and black students are 11 percent of the population. According to the report, Latino students, who make up 14 percent of the student population, are also disproportionately disciplined.

Aggression, defiance and disruption rank as the most common infractions among all students. The report says the largest disparities between white students and black students are in vaguely worded infractions, like disrespect.

“Disrespect was one of the hardest things for teachers to define,” said Nancy Kueffer, the school district’s behavior support coordinator. “So we’ve decided that we don’t want that on our office discipline referral form.”

Kueffer said the district needs to update policies and rewrite the code of conduct to clearly define infractions. She said the district should also help teachers think about the function of students’ misbehavior. This can help the teachers see behavior patterns and respond based on those patterns.

Board member Annetta Streater worries that seeing this data could strengthen stereotypes and cause teachers and administrators to racially profile students.

“I am concerned about this information – for it to be shared with some authority figures, administrators or whomever,” said Streater. “It definitely gives an idea based on comparing demographic groups.”

“It can be thought of that way or it can be thought of that the school is not meeting the needs of those students,” said Kueffer in response. “If we don’t have the data there, we can’t have that discussion . . . ‘Well why is that happening there? And why would it be any different for any kid of color?’”


“Political Problem…Led To Firing Of Three Black Men”

CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Civil Rights lawyer and NAACP Redress Chair, Alan McSurely says the town has a political problem on its hands that has led to the firing of three black men.

“The problem is that the Town Council has allowed the Town Manager to run roughshod over the rights of its employees—particularly its black employees,” McSurely says.

Late last week, Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil announced his ruling to uphold the firing of Kevin “Lee” Thompson for the misuse of Town resources that resulted in personal profit and after multiple written warnings of “incidents of detrimental personal conduct and/or unsatisfactory job performance.”

However, McSurely says his client believes he was dismissed for other reasons.

“The system is rigged against black employees and people who join unions,” McSurely says.

Kerry Bigelow and Clyde Clark, otherwise know as the Sanitation 2, were fired from the Town of Chapel Hill in October 2010 for insubordination and complaints by town residents about their job performance. An investigation was conducted by Raleigh-based human resource and compliance firm, Capital Associated Industries (CAI) and recommended the men be fired; the Citizens Advisory Committee concurred. In an email to WCHL, McSurely calls CAI “a union-busting outfit”.

However, the advisory committee, which McSurely referred to as a group of impartial hearing officers, did not agree with the firing of Thompson in a unanimous vote, 5-0. Stancil released his findings after that ruling, while taking it into account.

The Sanitation 2 are in a 30 day window with which the Town can appeal the ruling the North Carolina Court of Appeals gave earlier this month stating the two men should be given a hearing in front of a jury. Once that time is up, McSurely says they plan to take further action in the cases.

He says part of the discussion will be about how the two cases contradict themselves. He says Thompson was fired for doing extra work for which someone asked, while the Sanitation 2 were fired for not doing an extra favor while on the job.

“We send our black employees out into the neighborhoods, and we’ve done it for years with very little guidance about how to respond to requests of residents to do small favors,” McSurely says. “The Town has never developed a solid training program or policies that help guide our employees. The Town Council knows that; they obviously knew that from the Sanitation 2 case, and they have not done anything about it.”

The personnel appeals committee agreed, at least during the Thompson case, that there needs to be “a formal written policy regarding work performed by employees on private property” and additionally that “all Final Written Warnings are time-limited and include specific performance expectations.” Those recommendations were made by the appeals committee and sent to Stancil on February 27, 2013 after the committee ruled on Thompson’s case.

McSurely says before going back to court, he and his clients want to address the issue that they believe is still in place.

“We intend to issue to the Council first and try to get them to step up and do what they’re supposed to do, which is to help set policy for the town,” McSurely says.

No one from the Town was immediately available for comment.

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