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North Carolina’s public schools see uptick in crimes, violence and suspensions • NC Newsline | #schoolsaftey

Acts of crime and violence in North Carolina’s public schools grew by 18.1% during the 2022-23 school year, state education officials reported Wednesday.

There were 13,193 reported crimes and acts of violence last school year compared to 11,170 in 2021-22. That’s 8.77 acts per 1,000 students enrolled in 2022-23 compared to 7.51 in 2021-22.

Karen Fairley – (Courtesy photo)

“We recognize that what goes on in our communities comes into our schools and vice versa,” Karen Fairley, executive director of the Center for Safer Schools told the State Board of Education.

In her remarks, Fairley shared the information from the NC Department of Public Instruction’s Consolidated Data Report 2022-23. It consists of the annual reports on school crime and violence, suspensions and expulsions, alternative learning placements, reassignments for disciplinary purposes, uses of corporal punishment and dropout rates.

The state board is legally required to submit a report to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee by March 15 each year on the number of students who have dropped out of school, been subjected to corporal punishment, been suspended or expelled or assigned to an alternative school. The board is also required to compile a report on acts of violence committed in schools.

Similar to previous years, the possession of a controlled substance – among the 16 offenses school administrators are required by law to report – ranked first with 7,125 such incidents, an increase of increased 35.7% over the two academic years. There was a 54.8% increase over a five-year period.

Rounding out the top five offenses:

  • Possession of a weapon (not a firearm) — 3,171 incidents
  • Assault on school personnel — 1,482
  • Possession of alcoholic beverage — 720
  • Possession of a firearm or powerful explosive — 199

Fairley explained before sharing the consolidated data, that crime and violence numbers are higher because schools have improved their safety measures. Traditional public schools and charters for example, are requesting security cameras and metal detectors at higher rates, she said. Schools requested 83 safety grants during the 2021-22 school year. That number jumped to 146 last year, Fairley said.

“When a school district uses preventive measures such as school resource officers, metal detectors and camera systems to prevent and detect crimes, it could impact statistics by making bad behavior more apparent, thus increasing the number of reportable offenses whereas before, behavior could go unnoticed by administrators,” Fairley said.

Fairley also noted the impact of the state’s Say Something Anonymous Reporting System that’s active in 105 school districts and 137 charter schools. Students have submitted 32,000 tips since the program began in 2019, she said.

Overall, there were 507,349 disciplinary incidents in the state’s public schools from July 2022 through June 2023, Fairley said. that’s a 16.1% increase compared with the previous year.


An 11.7% decrease in the state’s dropout rate for all grades stood out against the grim crime and violence data.

School districts reported 10,523 dropouts in Grades 1-12. For high schools, 9,612 high school dropouts were reported, a 13.3% decrease and the lowest in a non-pandemic school year since 2013-14, officials reported.

Catherine Truitt
Superintendent Catherine Truitt (Photo: NCGA video stream)

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said in a statement that the decrease in dropouts bodes well for the future of education in North Carolina.

“It is promising to see a decrease in dropouts across North Carolina’s public schools as we know time in the classroom better prepares students for their future,” Truitt said. “I’m hopeful to see this trend continue as education is essential for students’ personal and professional success.”


The suspension data for the state’s schools was less promising.

Short-term suspensions lasting five days or less increased 13.5%. There were more than 247,000 short-term suspensions in 2022-23 compared to nearly 218,000 the previous academic year. 

Black students continued to be suspended at a higher rate than their peers. According to the data, Black students were suspended at a rate of 335.59 per 1,000 students enrolled, more than three times the rate for white students. American Indian students also were suspended at a high rate — 331.48 per 1,000 enrolled, three times that of Latino students. The suspension rate for students with disabilities was 284.22 per 1,000.

Schools reported 708 long-term suspensions, up just 2% from the previous year. Like the short-term suspension rate, Black students were suspended for long terms at roughly three times that of white and Latino students.

Sixty-four students were expelled in 2022-23, up from 48 in 2021-22.

To reduce suspensions and expulsions, Fairley said, the Center for Safer Schools will focus on alternative learning programs and schools to better serve students at risk of academic failure. Last school year, districts reported 4,566 alternative learning placements as a disciplinary action, which was up from 4,000 the previous year. 

“Some students perform better outside the traditional classroom setting,” Fairley said. “Part of the Center’s vision is to help schools offer an environment conducive to learning. Our goal is to support public school units so they can keep students safer while giving them the tools they need to succeed.”

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