NORTH CAROLINA (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A bill that would allow administrators more discretion on school discipline is in the North Carolina Senate and is facing increasing criticism.
The legislation, House Bill 188, was approved late last month by the State House and essentially takes out language that gives examples of non-serious violations.
Currently, under state law, “examples of conduct that would not be deemed to be a serious violation include use of inappropriate or disrespectful language, noncompliance of staff directive, dress code violations, and minor physical altercations that do not involve weapons or injury.”
HB188 would delete that language, adding measures that “will be taken to support a student during a suspension” and encouraging “in-school suspension over punishment that removes a student from the building.”
The bill is co-sponsored by three local state representatives: Reps. John Torbett of Gaston County, Hugh Blackwell of Burke County, and David Willis of Union County.
Supporters of the bill have contended in statements and published reports that the legislation would give more control back to teachers and administrators on classroom conduct.
Critics, however, said that the move would increase a discipline disparity that is already present North Carolina schools, where Black students are — on average — nearly four times as likely to be suspended than white students.
“The less guidance that educators have in terms of how they dole out punishments, the more they rely on their own intuition,” said Jerry Wilson with the Center for Racial Equity in Education. “And that can lead to personal biases creeping in and how punishment is distributed across race.”
Wilson’s statement is backed up by research conducted in numerous studies that Queen City News has reported on over the years on educational discipline disparities. The research also showed minority students are not more likely to misbehave, nor do they learn any differently, but noted that poverty was a driver on educational disparities, which disproportionately affects minority populations.
Queen City News reached out to Torbett, Blackwell, and Willis multiple times for an interview on this story. They have not responded as of 5 p.m.