New Hanover Co. Schools sees significant decrease in suspension rates

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County Board of Education held its first meeting since a lawsuit was filed against the board and the Sheriff’s Office after unmasked protesters were denied entry to a school board meeting.

At Tuesday evening’s meeting, no protesters were present and the audience was minimal.

Data was presented at the meeting that suspensions have significantly decreased. In 2017, 101 kindergarten through fifth-graders were assigned in-school suspension in the first quarter of the school year. In 2021, that number has gone down to 59. For out-of-school suspension, 185 students in the K-5 age group were assigned the punishment in 2017. This year, only 26 students have been assigned out-of-school suspension.

Board Vice-chairman Nelson Beaulieu said the district is actively working to keep children in the classroom and these results are promising.

I think it gives us hope moving forward we’ll be able to continue to bring those numbers down,” Beaulieu said. “Hopefully, we never have to suspend a student, I think that would be ideal, and long-term it looks to me that’s where we’re headed so I’m excited about it.”

The vice-chairman also extended a plea to anyone thinking about being a substitute teacher to do it, as a pay raise has gone into effect making New Hanover County substitutes the second-highest paid in the state. However, he said it’s not just the pay that makes it worth it. Beaulieu said it’s very rewarding to be a sub and help educate children in the community.

An update was provided on the decision to fingerprint employees and volunteers. The fingerprinting machine would be located at the Sheriff’s Office and staffed by the office as well.

The initial cost of the machine is $8,000, the upkeep and usage for the average hires per year would be an additional $8,000 each year. The school district is awaiting the return of the Memorandum of Understanding from the sheriff’s office before taking the next step.

The board also voted to move the November meeting from Tuesday, November 2 to Tuesday, November 9 to prevent any conflict with Election Day.

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