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Guilford County superintendent calls for more support for suspended, incarcerated students

Piedmont Triad News

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Guilford County Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras said students facing suspension or incarceration need more proactive solutions. 

As districts across the country deal with growing student misbehavior, Contreras said learning loss can set vulnerable students further back. 

Currently, there is one program in southeast Greensboro for students suspended for five to ten days. 

Contreras said students who sit at home won’t be able to move forward at the same rate as their peers. 

“They can harm us. They can harm themselves. I caution against being quick to say ‘just put them out of school. Just throw them to the streets. Put them in jail because these detention centers…suspensions, the strategies have never proven to be successful,” she explained. “They’re in the streets, learning more bad things. So when they come back, they’re behind in school. It’s very difficult to catch up when you missed 10 days of Algebra, 10 days of English. Whatever the subject is.” 

Students who commit more serious offenses learn from the Guilford County Juvenile Detention Center. Children take four classes every semester, three in the morning and one in the afternoon. 

“There’s also a time in the afternoon now that is focused on the individual learning needs of the students, so they now work with highly trained tutors from North Carolina A&T State University that we pay for as a district,” Contreras explained. 

A transition coordinator helps students stay on the path to graduation. Contreras visits the students and says more needs to be done before they end up in the detention center. 

“I saw all Black and brown boys sitting in a math 2 class, a class that so many of our boys fail in our traditional public schools, but they were seeing success because they had their special education teacher in the room,” Contreras said. “They had the classroom teacher. They were in a small group setting, and they were getting support. Why can’t we do that when they’re in a traditional setting?”  

She said the pandemic has exacerbated learning loss. 

“We’ve seen the financial condition of the families worsen. Joblessness has increased. Homelessness increased. Mobility of families increased. Students are moving all around. We’ve lost students. We don’t know where they are. These children and their families are facing a lot of trauma without lots of support,” Contreras said. 

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