Wake County School Board Candidates Answer Questions about Discipline Disparities and Youth Engagement

This September, NC HEAT members attended a series of candidate forums for aspiring Wake County school board members and posed questions around discipline issues and youth voice and engagement in education policy issues.  These questions were also emailed to the candidates who had 10 days to respond. 

Four of the eight candidates went on record, answering the questions the youth posed.  

Their answers can be found on this pdf flier, which is a compilation of their responses

Sept 10, 2013: Wake School Board Candidate Forum in Cary, NC

Sept 10, 2013: Wake School Board Candidate Forum in Cary, NC


Youth Grill Wake School Board Candidates on Discipline Issues

Sept 10, 2013: Wake School Board Candidate Forum in Cary, NC

Sept 10, 2013: NC HEAT members line up to ask questions at Wake School Board Candidate Forum in Cary, NC

On Monday, September 9, seven NC HEAT members attended the Cary Candidate forum located at Covenant Christian church, to ask perspective school board members the questions about the epidemic of suspensions and racial disparities in school discipline practices.   NC HEAT members used data-driven research to generate thought-provoking questions to encourage candidates to discuss their vision for how to address the school-to-prison pipeline in Wake County.

NC HEAT members highlighted that data shows that youth of color and disabled youth are suspended and pushed out of public schools at a rates alarmingly higher than their white, non-special needs counterparts.  Perspective candidates Nancy Caggia and Bill Fetcher seemed unable or unprepared to adequately address these policies issues.  Both candidates stated that they would not support a Moratorium on Out-of-School Suspensions.  After hearing the research and questions presented by NC HEAT members, NC HEAT hopes that the candidates will consider working more closely with students and communities to solve our school discipline crisis and create policies that treat every student, regardless of race, gender, gender presentation, ability, or sexual orientation with dignity.

School Board Candidate Forums

School is back in session that means the work of the Youth Organizing Institute and NC HEAT ramping up! The Wake County School Board elections are right around the corner and we are co-sponsoring a series of candidate forums with WakeUp Wake County, the League of Women Voters, and El Pueblo. It is critical that candidates respond to the needs of the youth and community they seek to serve. Please locate the candidate forum in your district and come ready to ask a question!

District 9 (Cary NC) 7:00PM-9:00PM — September 9th Covenant Christian Church
District 2 (Garner NC) 6:30PM-8:30PM  — September 12 Garner Performing Arts Center
istrict 7 (Raleigh NC) 6:30PM-8:30PM — September 19 St Francis of Assisi
istrict 1 (Raleigh NC) 6:30PM-8:30PM — September 26 Wake Chapel Church

Nationwide Fight Against School Push Out

no peace with a peaceThe School-to-Prison Pipeline is a national issue and requires creating a national fightback. The Dignity in Schools Campaign is helping local organizations coordinate and develop their campaigns to end this pipeline.  Here are some of the recent victories, including in Wake County, NC.

DSC Members Win Community Involvement in School Resource Officer Training for Wake County Schools

North Carolina – On June 4, students with DSC member organizations NC HEAT/Youth Organizing Institute and the Education Justice Alliance, together with the Coalition of Concerned Parents of African American Children, attended the Wake County Public School System Board meeting to address the overuse of harsh discipline practices and arrests at the hands of School Resource Officers (SROs).

Click the link below to read the full story:


DSC Members Celebrate Victory in Los Angeles

On Tuesday, May 14, DSC members CADRE, Public Counsel Law Center, Labor/Community Strategy Center, and Children’s Defense Fund-California working with the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition of Los Angeles on the Every Student Matters Campaign celebrated a groundbreaking victory when the Los Angeles Unified School Board approved a School Climate Bill of Rights that: bans suspensions for willful defiance; calls for stepped up implementation of School-Wide Positive Behavior Support and for the first time Restorative Justice; makes discipline, citation, and school arrest data available to students and parents; and clarifies the role of police in schools.

Click the link below for the full story:


D.O.E. Holds Annual Discipline Code Public Hearing

Charlotte Pope, Dignity in Schools Campaign – New York, 06/10/2013dsc main graphic

A chant of “Solutions not suspensions” echoed through the Stuyvesant High School auditorium Thursday evening, where a crowd largely made up of youth leaders assembled for the Department of Education’s annual hearing on the Discipline Code.

Click the link below for the full story:


NC HEAT Mobilizes to School Board

Consider Supporting the work of NC HEAT by making a donation!

school board meeting end the pipelineOn June 4, Students in NC HEAT, the Education Justice Alliance, and The Coalition of Concerned Parents of African American Youth joined forces to attend the Wake County School Board meeting. The “Consent Agenda” of the meeting included a renewal of the SRO contract which funds the security in the High Schools. SRO’s have been arresting youth at many schools including recently at Enloe. Seven students were taken to jail after a water-balloon senior prank. When a parent went into the principals office to ask why these black boys were being thrown into the ground by police the principal had the parent arrested for trespassing. The SRO’s have little to no training and target youth of color. Youth and community members packed public comment section as well as the meeting mounting enough pressure for the school board to move the agenda item of SRO funding to the “action” part of the agenda. After much discussion and debate among the school board members about discipline issues, school board member Keith Sutton said he would consider a moratorium on suspensions for level one infractions. While the funding for SRO’s did end up passing, the board recommended that community members be involved in the SRO summit training in August. This is just the beginning of the pressure we will put on the school board. Students need dignity in their schools and we will work until that is the case. You can watch the entire school board meeting or read more about it!

Support the Youth Organizing Institute

 Recent NC Election Results Keeping you Awake at Night?

Then invest in North Carolina’s Next Generation of Advocates to help you sleep better.

 The Super Majorities in BOTH houses of NC Legislature AND the Governor’s Office on a “MISSION FROM THE POPE” (Art) to cut back & privatize public education in NC – to roll back the progressive movement’s gains and our shared social safety net that will overwhelmingly impact the opportunities & futures for low income & working class youth – particularly immigrant youth & youth of color.

Every year, our school budgets shrink while our prison budgets grow!


As a Holiday Gift To Yourself & the future of North Carolina


We know what’s coming – we need to be ready to defend our future – and we need to make sure our young people have the tools & resources they need to organize & push-back against push-out.

To Call for a MORATORIUM on Out of School Suspensions

To Just Say No to Privatization

To Put the Brakes on the School to Prison Pipeline

Now more than ever we need young people who think critically about the way their schools and governments are being run, and empower them with the tools to organize & implement their creative solutions!

In 2013, the Youth Organizing Institute (YOI) will turn 4 years old.  We are a popular education leadership development program for high school students.  We provide trainings on the root causes of injustice, how those root causes are manifested in policies that affect our lives, and how organizing can create change.  In the past 3 years, over 50 Triangle teens have participated in our trainings, and we have helped to mobilize hundreds of young people.

We support youth-led organizations like NC HEAT (North Carolina Heroes Emerging Among Teens) and young people organizing in their schools with Gay Straight Alliances and other groups.  We are committed to building bridges between young people, adults, and elders.

Funds donated will help us:

  • Organize against impending austerity measures, particularly against schools and teachers and push-back against privatization,
  • Put on a North Carolina teen activist convening in February to build up our networks of high school groups, focusing on building bridges among their communities,
  • Build our bilingual capacity through interpreting equipment and making our events, meetings, and mobilizations multi-lingual,
  • Develop peer education around the school-to-prison pipeline and school push-out,
  • Launch a campaign for a Moratorium on out of-school suspensions.

Become a monthly sustainer or give for youth liberation here

Students and Parents Grill Tata at Public Forum

Newly appointed superintendent of Wake County Public Schools Anthony Tata faced a packed house at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh for a public forum organized by NC HEAT and the Parent Advocacy Working Group (PAWG).  Tata fielded a number of hard hitting questions from students, parents, and community members for more than an hour, with the line at the podium seeming to be constantly growing longer. Questions from the community covered a broad range of topics, from the neighborhood schools model being touted by the board majority, Tata’s commitment to creating equitable and diverse schools, the achievement gap, the school to prison pipeline, the budget crisis, and Tata’s background that qualified him to lead one of the nation’s largest school districts. Here’s a sample of some of the questions that were asked:

“…Mr. Tata, Do you think a sound basic education is a HUMAN RIGHT? If it is a human right, shouldn’t it take priority over neighborhood schools? What if, under neighborhood schools become racially and socio-economically isolated? What are your thoughts about research that shows that high minority and high poverty schools are typically low-performing because the best teachers don’t want to teach in those schools? Part of that research also shows that even with additional salary, high quality teachers can’t be coaxed into staying at those schools – like in Charlotte-Mecklenburg — so even pouring extra money into the schools (which doesn’t even exist), doesn’t work”.
“…Mr. Tata, there are huge achievement gaps in the Wake County School System – they are generally larger than the statewide gaps.  Black and Latino students, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and poor students all perform lower.  What are your strategies to reduce those achievement gaps and which strategies will you prioritize in your first 6 months? Will you come up with a written plan to close the achievement gap and include us parents and students in writing it – and how will you make sure the issue doesn’t become lost”?
“…Mr. Tata, what do you think the purpose of school discipline is and what are your thoughts about school discipline and education?” Part of our Title 6 complaint to the Office of Civil Rights is about the unequal application of discipline for students of color – what will you do to ensure this stops? How will you make sure discipline is being applied fairly and in a therapeutic way? Are you familiar with the school to prison pipeline, especially with young men of color? And do you see a link between suspensions, expulsions, and students winding up in the criminal justice system? How do you think schools could work on cutting that link”?

Throughout the forum, Tata stated over and over again his commitment to diversity in schools and raising student achievement for all students. The new superintendent also stated that he wasn’t necessarily sold on the idea of neighborhood schools, but rather, wanted to create high achieving schools and ensure that no schools became high-poverty–which would be an inevitable result of the transition to neighborhood schools. However, Tata’s answers to most questions were generally vague and he avoided directly answering many of the more challenging questions that came his way.

Forums such as these are important to continue to hold Tata accountable and express the will of the community. And we must continue our organizing in our schools, our neighborhoods and communities, in our churches, and everywhere else to keep building a movement to hold Tata accountable not only to the promises he made at this forum, but to follow what our community wants, deserves, and needs from our public school system.

For news coverage of the forum, please see:

Independent Weekly