HENDERSON — Public school systems in the Tri-County all do better than the state average when it comes to minimize inequities among racial and ethnic groups in the handling of student discipline, but they’re still prone to suspending Black students at higher rates, a civil-rights group said.

Black students in the Vance County Schools were 2.1 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension in the 2019-20 academic year, according to figures singled out by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

The statewide average is that Black students were 3.9 times more likely than white ones to get a short-term suspension of up to 10 days, the group said, adding that the disparity “exists despite the fact that studies show Black and white students misbehave at similar rates.”

In the Granville County Public Schools, Black students were 2.5 times more likely than whites to get a short-term suspension, and in the Warren County Schools they were 1.9 times more likely than whites to get a suspension.

Vance County Schools Superintendent Tony Jackson noted that the Southern Coalition relied on data school systems make available through an “annual comprehensive report” released by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Jackson also said the Vance school system has “implemented several district-wide initiatives, including non-traditional programs, to reduce the number of out-of-school suspensions of students.”

“It is important to note that in Vance County even if a student is suspended from school for disciplinary action, academic work is provided and the expectation is that it is completed during the student’s time out of school,” he said.

The Southern Coalition issued its fifth annual “racial equity report cards” earl this month, charting the patterns it sees in the state’s public school systems that it contends contribute to the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

It and other critics contend that when schools are too quick to boot kids out of class, and especially when they’re more prone to targeting minority students for such punishment, they’re setting them up for long-term problems.

Suspensions, in particular, “increase a student’s chances” of falling behind in school while having “no measurable positive impact on school safety,” the coalition said.

The coalition’s reports track other factors, including how many cases in a community’s juvenile-justice courts began with a referral from its schools.

For Vance County, the group believes only 16.9 of the county’s juvenile complaints were “school-based,” when across North Carolina 29.9% of juvenile referrals came from schools.

Granville County saw 27.1% of its referrals come from schools and Warren County 48.3%.

The coalition also looked for disparities in graduation rates, and at least in the Vance and Granville schools, didn’t find any.

The Vance schools in 2019-20 saw 91% of their Black students graduate after four years of high school, along with 90.2% of their white students and 90.2% of their Hispanic students.

In the Granville County Public Schools, 83% of Blacks, 83.8% of whites and 80.9% of Hispanics graduated after four years.

The Warren County Schools graduated 81.2% of their Black students, 68.4% of their Hispanic students and 66.7% of their white students. They also graduated 96% of their indigenous students. Warren County along with Halifax County is home to the Haliwa-Saponi tribe of Native Americans.

Contact Ray Gronberg at rgronberg@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.

Contact Ray Gronberg at rgronberg@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.