CMS: Violence Up, Short-Term Suspensions Down

Charlotte, NC — Violence and drugs in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are up while suspensions are down to a record low.

That’s according to a report released by the State Board of Education Thursday morning.

To read the full report, click here.

CMS found seven guns on campuses in the 2014-15 school year. Four of those armed students were here at West Mecklenburg High School.

“I want to send my daughter to school, and I want her to come home,” said Joanna Madison.

Madison and other parents picking up students Thursday were uncomfortable at best with the state report.

It shows 624 incidents of violence in the district last year. That’s up 14 percent. West Mecklenburg High School ranks fourth in the number of violent incidents as a whole. The first three are small schools for students with behavioral issues or disabilities.

All North Carolina schools are required to report 16 offenses that occur on campus. The offenses include: weapons, drugs, alcohol, sexual assaults and students assaulting teachers, staff or other students.

“Logically, there’s only so much you can do,” said Mary Figueroa. “They’re teenage kids.”

What teachers argue does not match up is the number of suspensions.

Short-term suspensions, meaning less than ten days, were down to 22,196 in 2014-15.

That number was 24,121 in 2013-14.

Suspensions for more than ten days were up to 46. In 2013-14, that number was eight.

“That’s a huge red flag,” said Vice President of the Classroom Teachers Association Steve Oreskovic.

He says if violence is up, suspensions should show that.

“Are they not having any discipline done to them at all? Are they simply trying to push things under the rug because the numbers look better for them?” said Oreskovic. “That’s not right.”

CMS argues low suspensions reflect the district’s efforts to keep more kids in school, learning when they commit minor offenses.

“Whenever possible, we want to keep every CMS student in school and on track to graduate with the skills needed for college and career success,” said Superintendent Ann Clark.

Some teachers say that hinders their ability to control classrooms.

“Work on intervening with these kids before it happens, getting the appropriate amount of counselors in the schools. Have those counselors do their job of counseling and not test prep,” said Oreskovic.”The admins need to take control of their schools, or they need to not be there.”

CMS says alternative discipline programs include more conflict resolution and de-escalation training, targeted student and family interventions, educational support programs for students and families involved in substance abuse and Short-Term Alternative to Suspension Centers.

Some students say West Mecklenburg High School doesn’t feel safer.

“There was a fight a month ago and one of the guys pulled out a gun,” said Anna Hernandez. “Someone heard, ‘Gun! Run!'”
Parents are weighing options.

“I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for stuff like that,” said Madison. “The first whiff I get of it, she’s out.”

Members of the board of education would comment on the report until they review it.