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Report shows decrease in dropout rates, increase in 'incidents' among N.C. high schoolers

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Students walk out of East Chapel Hill High School on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.

The Center for Safer Schools recently presented its annual consolidated data report from the 2022-23 school year to the N.C. State Board of Education — including a decrease in dropout rates among high school aged students compared to the previous year.

The dropout rate for 2022-23 academic year in North Carolina was 1.95 dropouts per 100 high school students, down from 2.25 dropouts per 100 students in the 2021-22 year. Dropout rates were lower in 2022-23 than in the six school years before the pandemic.

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Gov. Pat McCrory created the Center for Safer Schools in 2013 under Executive Order 25. The center partners with North Carolina public schools to promote safe learning environments in K-12 schools. Karen Fairley, the executive director of CFSS, said she attributes the state’s success in this category to policies put in place by N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt and her leadership team.

Shaneeka Moore-Lawrence, the president of the N.C. Parent Teacher Association, said she believes the decrease in dropouts could be attributed to the more comprehensive support students are receiving since they have returned after the pandemic.

“I think that school districts and organizations across North Carolina really rallied together and collaborated at the highest level that I've seen in my 24 years as an educator to make sure that there was not an option for students to not have what they needed,” Moore-Lawrence said.

Abigail Paquin, a UNC student who interned in a sixth-grade classroom at Culbreth Middle School last semester, said one thing she believes could be contributing to the continued decrease in dropout rates is the positive relationships teachers make with their students in the classroom.

"Their relationships with their students are pivotal," Paquin said. "Having a positive relationship with a student highly impacts the student's desire to come to school."

In its report, the CFSS showed an increase in crime and violent acts in public schools, with the number of incidents across the state totaling 13,193. While the state did see an overall increase in incidents, the percentage of incidents involving a weapon decreased by 3.7 percent.

Fairley said the most common type of incident in this category was a student bringing a controlled substance, most often an electronic cigarette, onto school grounds. According to the report, the frequency of incidents involving controlled substances increased last school year by 35.7 percent. 

She said the increase may be due to public schools using CFSS funding to increase observance — not necessarily to an actual increase in incidents.

"We saw some districts asking for metal detectors, we saw some districts asking for cameras," Fairley said. "And when you start to do that, the numbers go up not because it's more crime in the school, but it's that now people can identify it."

Moore-Lawrence said the increase in crime and violent acts calls for more advocacy surrounding ways to decrease that number.

“I think that increase continues to show that there is a need to continue to support our students in the area of mental health and wellness,” Moore-Lawrence said. “And to ensure that they have access to school counselors, psychologists, nurses, social workers and all the wraparound supports that are so critical.” 

Paquin said that even though statistics like these can be intimidating to those who hope to teach in the classroom one day, like herself, she still believes conversations about improving these statistics should focus on supporting the students.

"It can be intimidating, but I think it's [important to remember] that these students are people," she said. "They're humans that are developing and they have their own identities. And I just really want to pour into them and be a positive influence that can honestly help curb the negative statistics."

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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