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RALEIGH (WTVD) -- On Monday morning, LaChantal Warthaw-Ricketts' daughter logged onto a website to cast her ballot in the Student Council elections. The junior quickly learned her name wasn't on the ballot for Vice President, even though she had spent time campaigning for the position.

"These children woke up and realized 'No one can vote for me, Mom, because my name's not on the ballot,'" said Warthaw-Ricketts.

A total of four African-American juniors who were running in the election were wiped off the ballot in their respective categories.

The Wake County School District says it was human error.

Warthaw-Ricketts and parent Shirley Andre said they believe the color of their children's skin lead to the exclusion.

"There's no way it's a glitch for black kids (to be) off the ballot," said Andre. "It really hurts to see your child going through this, because they shouldn't have to."

"You have four African-American students that are not on a ballot. That points to race. That's not a technical glitch," said Warthaw-Ricketts.

The mothers showed ABC11 an email exchange with Enloe principal Scott Lyons, where he wrote this was "obviously is a mistake."

Lyons also wrote in the email, "I wanted the elections to be fair" and "we are starting the election process over from the start."

All of the candidates will have to resubmit an application to run and will have to campaign for a second time.

The mothers said it would be better to have a re-vote right away. They said the African-American kids are being harassed and ostracized.

"To have them go backwards and do this whole thing again, it disenfranchises all of the students regardless of their race," said Warthaw-Ricketts.

Enloe's principal is reportedly implementing a system of checks and balances for the new election.

It was not announced when students will vote again.



Facing criticism from some community groups, Wake County school leaders will hold a forum in Southeast Raleigh Monday to discuss how black students are, on average, lagging behind white students in academic performance.

In addition, the forum will address the higher likelihood that black students will be suspended and arrested.

During the forum, school administrators will talk about their efforts to eliminate gaps in academic achievement, the dropout rate, student suspensions and court cases referred by school resource officers. The forum is at 6:30 p.m. at Southeast Raleigh High School, 2600 Rock Quarry Road.

The school system hopes to get feedback and support for addressing the challenges that are leaving some black students behind. The Rev. Marion Robinson, a founder of the Flood Group, which is helping to co-sponsor the forum, said the school system can’t close the gaps by itself.

Facing racial barriers

“Unless you have structure and discipline you can’t accomplish anything,” Robinson said. “The homes are going to have a play a part. The church is going to have to play a part.”

But some community groups say the Wake school system hasn’t been doing enough to reduce the disparities impacting black students.

“For several years we have anticipated that the Wake County Public School System and the Board of Education would eliminate the ongoing disparities and racial barriers that black children face,” said Calla Wright, president of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens For African American Children. “This has not been the case.

“The steps that the Board of Education have taken to eliminate racial disparities and barriers regarding the suspension and student arrest have proven to be highly ineffective.”

Wright, a mother of a student at Enloe High School in Raleigh and a former Wake teacher, has been lobbying the school district since July for a range of data. Some of the data will be presented Monday. But Wright is still waiting for information on areas such as in-school suspensions and the number of students who are not promoted.

Robinson and Marvin Connelly, Wake’s chief of staff and strategic planning, denied that the forum was being held because of Wright’s public-information request. They said they wanted to hold the meeting to get as many community groups together as possible to share the information about gaps and disparities.

Connelly said the forum will be split into two portions. One section will talk about academic achievement and dropout rates and the other on suspensions and court referrals. After each presentation, the public will sit in small groups to discuss what they’ve heard.

The academic portion will include statistics such as the 42.7 percent of Wake’s black students who passed state exams this past school year. That compares to 66.8 percent passing for all students and 81.8 percent for white students.

Efforts to change

A new state report shows that black students accounted for 38 percent of Wake’s high school dropouts during the 2014-15 school year, the most of any group.

School officials can point to programs to address the gaps such as the Multi-Tiered System of Supports, which lists the services that schools will provide to students to meet their needs.

Wake also has in recent years created a program called the Elementary Support Model to provide additional services to 12 elementary schools that have low test scores. Many of those schools have a high number of black students.

But school board member Keith Sutton, whose district includes a large number of African-American families, said Wake should do more to close the racial achievement gap.

“We continue to see African-American boys and African-American girls being disproportionately impacted by many of the measures we’re looking at,” Sutton said. “It will take direct and intentional work by the board to provide staff direction and guidance.”

Sutton said Wake should look at programs used around the country that have had success with African-American students. He also suggested boosting mentoring and literacy programs that target African-American students.

One area that has also drawn scrutiny is that black students are suspended and arrested at a higher rate than their share of the enrollment.

A recently released report showed that black students accounted for 63 percent of Wake’s suspensions last school year while making up 24 percent of the enrollment.

Another new report shows that Wake’s black students received 69 percent of the referrals that school resource officers made to the court system. The report also showed that black students were 1.7 times more likely than white students to be arrested in Wake for fighting and theft.

Wake has changed discipline policies in the last six years to encourage more alternatives to out-of-school suspensions, such as restorative justice programs and the addition of seats at alternative schools. There’s been a 34 percent reduction in total out-of-school suspensions in the past five years.

‘It’s very difficult’

Wake is also about to start a new program in which students who are between 16 and 18 years old who are accused of committing nonviolent misdemeanors at school would be diverted from adult criminal court to alternatives such as Teen Court and mediation.

But Sutton said the number of alternative school seats hasn’t kept pace with Wake’s student growth.

Sutton and Wright of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens For African American Children have clashed over the past few years. But both agree that Wake should be more careful about involving law enforcement in school matters.

“Obviously you’ve got some issues such as firearms and drugs that will require law enforcement,” Sutton said. “But there may be other issues that don’t require involvement with law enforcement.

“Once they are involved, it’s very difficult to have that reduced or remove them from the situation.”

Wright acknowledges there’s been some progress made in areas such as reducing the number of suspensions. But she is skeptical of the school system’s timing for the meeting. All nine school board seats are up for election in November.

“We’re now at the end of the board’s election cycle and now they’re trying to address it,” Wright said. “By now they should have been able to reduce the suspension and retention rate by at least 50 percent.”

Read more here:

Recent Events

Citizens press Wake school board for public records
Published Thursday, January 28, 2016
by Latisha.Catchatoorian

RALEIGH – All Calla Wright wants is public information.

On July 28, 2015, Wright, founder of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children, sent an email to Wake County Public Schools Superintendent Jim Merrill asking for the most recent test data/statistic reports disaggregated by ethnicity and gender to include the following:

  • Out-of-school suspension/expulsion
  • Promotion and retention for elementary, middle and high school
  • Student arrest
  • In-school suspension
  • Class assignment grouping
  • Advanced Placement/Honors class enrollment
  • International Baccalaureate enrollment
  • Re-directional school enrollment
  • EOC/EOG reports according to subject area and individual schools to include alternative and re-directional schools

Wright then sent a follow-up email to Merrill and board member Christine Kushner in September 2015 saying that her initial request was ignored, and under North Carolina Public Records Law (G.S. 132-1) the information is open public records.

Tim Simmons, the WCPSS chief communications officer, responded and wrote they were in the process of gathering the information.

About a month later, Simmons sent Wright a lengthy email providing much of the information she requested, saying the school system was reviewing “one large data set that will be responsive to several parts of your request but which must be appropriately redacted to prevent inadvertent disclosures of information about individual students by means of deduction.”

Simmons also said Wright’s requests became “narrower” over time and the communications department elected to interpret her requests broadly on the assumptions that she intended “ethnicity” to encompass not just ethnicity, per se, but also race, and was interested in the most recent data, disaggregated by race/ethnicity and gender.

The correspondence continued in November and December, with Wright asking for a public meeting in which WCPSS could present the academic performance data of all students. She said the community needed to determine if black and brown students have made growth during the current school board’s leadership. Simmons said he would ask administrators about addressing CCCAAC’s “broader question.”

Marvin Connelly Jr., chief of staff and strategic planning for WCPSS, emailed Wright earlier this month that said he was willing to present the “Student Arrest Data” after the next school board meeting, and believed the district had provided the other information requested.

Wright said that although she received some of the information she requested, she still has not received several reports, including the in-school-suspension report, re-directional school enrollment test score data, student arrest data, updates on the retention report and the latest suspension data report for 2014-15.

“There are components of that request that haven’t been submitted. That’s to determine the effectiveness in our democratic board leadership and addressing the achievement gap,” Wright said. “Retention issues are a big issue. We wanted to know how many black kids were retained. You need to look at those alternative schools to see all the black kids who are being warehoused.”

At alternative schools like River Oaks Middle School, 24 black students make up the 50-student enrollment. At Mary E. Phillips High School, 112 of the 160 students are black. Wright said test scores at these schools are not comparable to other traditional schools.

The CCCAAC is also concerned over information like data from the 2013-14 Suspension Data Report. Black males accounted for 4,853 short-term suspensions that year, while white males accounted for 1,635. Even black females were suspended more than white males, with 1,900 short-term suspensions in that category for the same year. White females were suspended 396 times.

WCPSS chair Tom Benton told Wright (via email) that she “received a detailed response to (her) request from Tim Simmons on October 14, 2015. Sorry your perception of our actions is so negative.”

Benton told The Tribune that his response was in reference to an email Wright wrote in January, which said:

“I want to add that this current WCPSS BOE and the superintendent along with the current administration have been the most difficult to work with in terms of getting responses to our concerns and issues. The former BOE members and the superintendents were always involved in the community and would address all parents' issues, and concerns would not be ignored. We need leaders and elected officials who will keep their political commitments to our community.”

“It (his statement about negativity) was not about (her) requesting data,” Benton said.

Wright feels the board thinks she’s being “negative” for asking for data and said that makes her question the board. “Not addressing the issues makes me question (them). Are they trying to hide the issues?,” she said.

Community activist Octavia Rainey urged Benton and the board to set up a meeting with Wright.

Rainey said she thought Benton’s comments were “rude and disrespectful.”

“That’s his role as a public elected official to respond without his personal opinion. All she was asking for was a public record request,” Rainey said. “Her organization is about black children in the public school system. To be disrespectful and try to criminalize her is an outrage. That is a democratic Wake County education school board.”

Merrill has not met with CCCAAC or been involved in the communication between both parties.

“I feel like this school board and Dr. Merrill has not embraced our community as other (previous) superintendents (have in the past). He hasn’t come out since he’s been superintendent, and that’s concerning to us as parents,” Wright said.



January 22, 2015 Community Talk
Parents, Concerned Citizens, Students and
Community & Educational Advocates

What: “Community Conversation on Race and its Impact on Academic & Discipline Issues in WCPSS” – Part 2 -* Community Talk

When: January 22, 2015

TIME: 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Where: North Carolina Justice Center, 224 South Dawson Street, Raleigh, NC

Please join us for a Community Talk forum where parents, students, educational leaders, community advocates, as well as board of education members will discuss issues focusing on academic and discipline issues impacting minority students who attend Wake County Public Schools. We need your input and expertise to decide what additional measures in our educational system will best serve students and families. It is important to have a conversation focusing on discipline and academic issues that impact minority children, including those with IEP’s or 504 Plans. Please come and share your concerns and experiences. This event is FREE. The community will discuss the following topics in this initial forum:

*Suspensions (including in school, short term and long term)


*Student Arrests

*Student Non Compliance


Your input is needed to help keep our children in school. Please come out and be a part of the “Community Conversation” - Part 2* Forum. The event is sponsored by: Education Justice Alliance, NAACP-NC, Concerned Citizens for African American Children, NC HEAT
Everybody had a blast at the barbecue -- the food was good, the fun was great, and we raised over $800 for the restoration fund.

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