WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — A federal review of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School’s discipline practices shows two very different realities for students.

African American students are more likely to be suspended and are suspended at higher rates compared to their white counterparts.

It’s an issue WS/FCS leaders are aware of and have been working for the past three years to re-direct. Federal involvement and concern over the topic came as a surprise to Superintendent Tricia McManus.

According to McManus, her office received a 25-page letter last week from the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office detailing a study that started in 2010. She believes the investigation came after the office noticed a growing trend in their data. McManus says she is not sure why it took 13 years for the results to be returned to the district.

The 25-page report explores data from over the years, takes a look at the school’s past and current Code of Character, Conduct and Support and offers action items to fix the issues moving forward.

The report shares that though Black students make up around a third of the student population, they accounted for more than 57% of suspensions last school year. White students made up only 14% of suspensions.

When it comes to first-time offenses, Black students were more likely to receive in-school or out-of-school suspension over their white counterparts for excessive tardiness, insubordination, inappropriate language and aggressive behavior.

“Any student falling through the cracks is not good enough, especially when there’s an entire group of students, Black males. It’s not good enough,” McManus said.

The release of the data brought together school district leaders, Winston-Salem City Council members and non-profits under the umbrella of My Brother’s Keeper to address the issues Monday.

“If our children are not doing well in our school system or any system, it is incumbent on the leadership of the City of Winston-Salem to hold all systems accountable as well as us being accountable to make this work,” Mayor Pro Tempore Denise D. Adams said.

McManus says she believes the changes made over the past three years to the Code of Character, Conduct and Support along with the district’s Racial Equity Policy will help fill in the gaps the study saw in the district starting in 2010. 

She says the district is ready to be accountable to the federal government and to the community and wants input from all stakeholders to solve the issue.

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“Last year was our first year of implementation. We saw some decreases in the number of suspensions and individual incidents, but it’s not fast enough. There was about an 18% decrease in days of suspension, but it’s not enough,” McManus said.

Moving forward, the district is responsible for addressing concerns and submitting a yearly report to the Office of Civil Rights.

Advocates with My Brother’s Keeper and other non-profits in the city are turning toward local, state and federal representation for more funding and acknowledgment of the systemic issues at play to solve the issue.