Jim Bradshaw, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education, said the opening of an investigation by the OCR itself does not indicate a violation in policies.
“At the conclusion of the investigation of all issues, OCR will determine if the evidence supports a conclusion of noncompliance or if the evidence is insufficient,” he said.
If the Office for Civil Rights does find a violation, Bradshaw said, schools and districts can lose federal funding or be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for further action.
“However, through resolution agreements reached with schools and districts, OCR has been able to attain strong remedies without the need to initiate enforcement actions,” he said.
Lisa Luten, spokesperson for Wake County Public Schools, said the school system has seen a decline in disciplinary actions since the investigation was opened.
“The school system has reduced student suspensions by 34 percent in the past five years while emphasizing positive behaviors as part of its discipline programs,” she said. “About 90 percent of our African-American students are never suspended during their school careers.”
Luten said the school district is cooperating with the Office for Civil Rights investigation and has changed its policies since the investigation began.
But Wright said she thinks there is more work to be done.
“We are just losing too many students because of disciplinary actions and infractions,” she said. “We are putting many of the police in charge of handling the discipline of adolescent students. We need principals to handle their issues on very small matters without involving the police.”
Wright said suspensions are detrimental to a child’s education because it serves as retaliation, not rehabilitation.
“Children can’t learn when they’re not in school, when their rights to education are being denied,” she said.