REPORT: North Carolina’s Education System Stuck in Cycle of Racism 

Justice System Reform

DURHAM (May 1, 2024) – Significant racial disparities continue to infect North Carolina’s school system, disproportionately impacting students of color, according to Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s 2022-23 Racial Equity Report Cards, or RERCs.  

The RERCs provide annual insight into how school systems are achieving equity in three categories: career and college preparedness, short-term suspensions, and school-related juvenile delinquency complaints.  

Across North Carolina’s 115 school districts, this year’s data shows worse disparities experienced by Black students as compared with white students when it comes to receiving short-term suspensions and being referred to the juvenile justice system than at any time since the COVID pandemic. For example, although Black students comprise approximately 25% of students in traditional K-12 public schools, they are nearly four times as likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension. 

Click here for all of the 2022-23 RERCs. 

“These RERCs are a call-to-action,” said Jake Sussman, Chief Counsel for Justice System Reform at Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “We are seeing widening disparities that continue to be unfairly shouldered by Black students across the state. Students, parents, educators, and advocates have been naming this problem for decades. Eliminating these sorts of disparities should be everyone’s priority. We need justice within our school systems.” 

  • Across the state, white students in grades 3-8 were 2.2 times more likely to score “Career and College Ready” on final exams than Black students. 
    • Asheville City Schools has the worst disparity in the state, with white students 10.7 times more likely to score “Career and College Ready” on final exams than Black students.* 
  • Across the state, Black students were 3.8 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension. 
    • Asheville City Schools has the worst disparity in the state, with Black students being 9.9 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension.* 
  • 37.9% of all juvenile delinquency complaints in the state were school-related. 
    • Jackson County Schools has the worst disparity in the state, with 79.6% of all juvenile delinquency complaints in the County stemming from school.* 

*A Note on Data

Data from school systems across the state often has gaps, with some counties not reporting or missing entire data points. Counties with smaller populations may also be weighted against as only a few instances may count heavily against them. Additionally, statewide data is not publicly available for many important measures such as: use of in-school suspension at the school and district level; suspensions disaggregated by offense, grade, length, etc.; assignments to alternative programs at the school and district level; school-based arrests and use of force at the school and district level. These are only a few examples of data that should be collected and reported by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. 

Both in the General Assembly as well as in North Carolina’s 115 school districts, it’s more clear than ever that the work of addressing the academic performance gap and over-discipline of students of color must truly take priority in order to disrupt and end this damaging and unfair reality.