North Carolina public school units (PSUs) reported a decrease in dropouts in North Carolina school districts and charter schools in 2022-23, according to the annual Consolidated Data Report which was presented today to the State Board of Education by the Center for Safer Schools (CFSS). The report’s findings increase safety awareness and allow school districts to evaluate safety protocols while facilitating discussions around how to improve, identify and strengthen safety measures in schools and communities.
The number of acts of crime and violence, as well as suspensions, increased from the 2021-22 school year.
PSUs reported 10,523 dropouts in Grades 1-12, an 11.7 percent decrease from 11,711 in 2021-22. The number of high school dropouts (Grades 9-13) was the lowest in a non-pandemic school year since 2013-14. In 2022-23, 9,612 high school dropouts were reported, a 13.3 percent decrease from 10,841 in 2021-22.
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said the decrease in dropouts is a good sign for the future of education in North Carolina.
“It is promising to see a decrease in dropouts across North Carolina’s public schools as we know time in the classroom better prepares students for their future,” Truitt said. “I’m hopeful to see this trend continue as education is essential for students’ personal and professional success.”
The report showed that PSUs reported 13,193 acts of crime and violence, an increase from 11,170 in 2021-22.
Karen W. Fairley, executive director of the CFSS, which compiled the Consolidated Data Report, said the decrease in possession of a weapon indicates that school safety efforts by the CFSS, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and local districts are taking hold.
“Initiatives such as Educating Kids About Gun and Gang Violence (EKG2) and the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System play a critical role in keeping schools safer,” she said. “While these programs and others carried out through the Center can play an important proactive role in both training and reporting, we know that real progress starts in communities with conversations between school districts, community leaders, and local law enforcement.”
Truitt said data from the report will continue to be used by school districts to improve safety programming and planning while also helping the agency’s CFSS make strategic decisions about allocation of safety resources and trainings.
“This data is an important tool for school districts to assess programs and strategies in place that keep students safe while guiding the Center for Safer Schools in its decision making on the types of trainings and resources it provides statewide,” Truitt said. “This report demonstrates that our schools are meticulously tracking this data in an effort to curb safety incidents, which is a necessary step in continuing to develop and refine safety improvement programs within schools.
“I’m optimistic that the safety measures in place, including passage of House Bill 605 to establish Threat Assessment Teams in all North Carolina schools, along with the Center’s training and resources regarding mental health first aid, risk management training and RISE Safety Summit, will help support districts to keep students safe throughout their academic journey. We know that school safety is an essential condition for effective teaching and learning.”
Consistent with previous years, and similarly to 2021-22, possession of a controlled substance in violation of law was the most frequently reported incident in PSUs. Possession of a controlled substance in violation of law (7,125 instances) increased 35.7 percent in 2022-23, but possession of a weapon (3,171 instances) decreased 3.7 percent.
The State Board of Education published guidelines for safe schools, part of which clarified and listed those offenses that are reportable to the State Board of Education annually. Per the guidelines, possession of a controlled substance is defined as a person possessing or having in his/her immediate control any amount of the following on school grounds: Marijuana, Heroin, LSD, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, or any other drug listed in Schedules I - VI of the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act. (G.S. §90-89 through 90-94.). The guidelines further elaborate about weapons on educational property: It is unlawful for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any of the following weapons on campus or other educational property: (1) any BB gun, (2) stun gun, (3) air rifle, (4) air pistol, (5) bowie knife, (6) dirk, (7) dagger, (8) slingshot, (9) leaded cane, (10) switchblade knife, (11) blackjack, (12) metallic knuckles, (13) razors and razor blades, (14) fireworks, or (15) any sharp-pointed or edged instrument.
With 4,512 instances, possession of a controlled substance in violation of law was the most frequently reported among the 7,075 acts of crime and violence in high schools, followed by possession of a weapon (1,126). Notably, NCDPI’s Office for Data and Analytics relayed that a possible cause for the increase in controlled substances is related to a concerted effort by the agency to communicate with PSUs about accurately logging the vaping code in tandem with either the code called “possession of a controlled substance,” or the code called “possession of tobacco.” The intentional focus on accurately reporting the vaping code is part of the agency’s ongoing effort to revamp and redefine codes so they are useful for reporting purposes but also in providing greater clarity to schools.
SUSPENSIONS AND EXPULSIONS
In 2022-23, 247,454 short-term suspensions were reported, an increase from 217,928 in 2021-22. PSUs reported 708 long-term suspensions, a slight increase from 693 the previous year.
Sixty-four students were expelled in 2022-23, up from 48 in 2021-22.
In an effort to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions, the CFSS will expand its focus to include Alternative Learning Programs and Schools (ALPS). ALPS are safe, orderly, caring and inviting learning environments that assist students with overcoming challenges that might place them “at-risk” of academic failure. The goal of each program and school is to provide a rigorous education while developing individual students’ strengths, talents and interests.
The CFSS plans to hire a staff member who will work with PSUs on discipline/alternative learning placements. In addition, the CFSS Multidisciplinary Team includes a subcommittee that focuses on alternative learning placements.
In 2022-23, PSUs reported 4,566 alternative learning placements as a disciplinary action, up from 4,000 the previous year. ALPS plays a vital role in helping to keep schools safer, Fairley said.
“Some students perform better outside the traditional classroom setting,” said Fairley, executive director of the CFSS. “Part of the Center’s vision is to help schools offer an environment conducive to learning. Our goal is to support public school units so they can keep students safer while giving them the tools they need to succeed.”