Aggressive policing, discrimination, and unfair suspension policies are just a few of the many hits the Wake County Public School System is taking in a short documentary sponsored by the Education Justice Alliance, NC HEAT, Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children, Justice Served NC and the Push Out Prevention Project.
One of the stars of the documentary is Travis Wiggins. He's 21 years old now and is a freshman at Wake Tech Community College. But he remembers a time when he said he was unfairly treated. "I went to Millbrook High School and Broughton High School. I learned that people are willing to help and some people are not" said Wiggins.
At both schools, on separate occasions, he said he was suspended. "Long story short, I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I was picked out, but at the end of the day when I went to court, the victims said I was not guilty."
Julia Nieves is a Community Outreach Director at Legal Aid of North Carolina. She said, "Instead of suspending kids automatically, let's have a restorative justice program. Let's have peer mediation. In no way shape or form are we saying kids shouldn't have consequences but we are saying that students make mistakes and that there are many different ways to address those mistakes instead of pushing them out of school."
A documentary screening of "Mission Critical: Ending the School to Prison Pipeline" explored those topics.
It showed data explaining that minority and low income students are more likely to get suspended.
But some critics with the Wake County School Board said complaints like these will only make it harder for the school system to discipline students.
Some of the organizations that sponsored the documentary were also involved in filing an official complaint with the Department of Justice against the Wake County Public School System. A spokeswoman with WCPSS there said they are currently reviewing the complaint.