Durham Public Schools seeks solutions to suspensions


School leaders held a public forum Monday night to try to fix the problem.

"So many of our students are being kicked out of schools, and we know that once they're kicked out of school that they often head to the prison," said community member Donald Hughes.

Last year, the district suspended roughly 6,000 students. Almost 80 percent of them were African-American.

"We're talking about lowering class sizes," said Githens Middle School principal Tonya Williams. "We're talking about training teachers to deal with the diversity in a classroom."

Williams said she has seen the problem in her own school with truancy, students breaking rules, fighting and verbally abusing staff among the top offenses.

"Most parents are saying that they don't understand why their students are behaving in this way," said Williams. "They don't know why they're getting into fights. They don't know why they're using profanity. They just want help."

Disciplining special needs students is also a challenge. DPS recently announced it would change its policies after families with disabled students alleged that the district punished their students more severely.

The hope is that idea from Monday's public forum will change that.

"There has been some discussion about do we have a task force that would really work with the board on devising, making recommendations on a new policy or coming up with some suggestions that the administration can be able to begin to implement," said DPS Superintendent Dr. Eric Becoats.

School leaders will compile ideas and forward them to the school board for consideration. The next meeting will be held Tuesday evening at Southern High School in Durham.

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