Crime, suspensions fall in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Both crime and suspensions in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools fell last year, according to data published this week by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

The number of students who dropped out of school fell, too – though the dropout rate remained higher than the state average. And black students continued to be suspended at higher rates than their peers.

The annual report, which includes data on every district in North Carolina, will be presented to the State Board of Education on Thursday and covers the 2013-14 school year. The findings detail how many crimes, suspensions and dropouts CMS reported to the state:

▪ 1,089 criminal acts across the district, down from 1,386 the year before.

▪ 547 criminal acts, or 13.87 per 1,000 students in the high school grades. That’s down from 637 crimes, or a 16.5 per 1,000 rate, the year before.

Reportable acts of crime include assaults involving serious injury or a weapon, bomb threats, arson, homicide, kidnapping, alcohol violations, weapons possession, sexual assaults and robbery. They must be reported if they occur on school grounds or on a school field trip.

▪ 947 students dropped out of CMS, a 2.31 percent rate. The district was cited by the state as having one of the largest decreases in the dropout rate. Last year’s dropout rate was 3.02 percent. The state dropout rate was 2.28 percent.

▪ 24,121 short-term suspensions. Suspensions are down significantly from the 35,822 short-term suspensions reported in the 2012-13 school year.

▪ 11 long-term suspensions, down from 91 the year before.

▪ Black students accounted for 77 percent of suspensions, the same percentage as the year before. CMS is about 41 percent black.

CMS has made reducing suspensions a point of emphasis this year. Partnering with the juvenile justice system, the school district has sought to come up with alternatives to sending students home from school.

Principals are also being required to go through “dismantling racism” training. Superintendent Ann Clark has said all principals will have completed the training by the end of the school year. CMS has found that minority students are more frequently suspended for the infractions that lead to lesser punishments for white students.

CMS officials declined to comment on the data Wednesday, saying they wanted to wait until the report was formally presented. Information on individual schools was not available Wednesday. The database was expected to be released Thursday.

Statewide, crimes in high schools fell for the fourth consecutive year. Drug possession was the most frequent crime across the state, followed by weapons possession and assault on school personnel.

Short-term suspensions have also fallen precipitously across the state.