Henrico’s high African-American suspension rate alarms lawmakers

Posted at 8:25 PM, Oct 09, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-09 20:38:27-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - Henrico County Public Schools are facing tough questions from some state and local leaders over the way they discipline African-American students.

The concerns stem from a new nationwide report that looks at how students are punished based on their race.

The recent study, which breaks down suspension rates into sub groups, has alarmed some lawmakers.

"They are some very disturbing numbers," said Senator Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) from his Henrico County law firm. "The administration has apparently known this is a problem since 2009."

McEachin and Rev. Tyrone Nelson, the Varina District representative on the Henrico Board of Supervisors, are asking for answers from the superintendent.

"The numbers are startling... 37 percent of our population are African-Americans and 75 percent of the suspensions are African-Americans" said Nelson, who is now in his ninth month serving the district.

Both men said they want a school leaders to formulate a plan of action and a timeline to correct the problem.

Some parents in the Highland Springs area said they knew about the problem, and were a bit surprised the numbers were released. Some said they feel they have no voice when it comes to school suspensions.

In fact, one parent who asked not to be identified, said she was  forced to hire an attorney because of suspension issues with her child.

"Instead of them listening, they'd rather just bar you off the premises to get rid of you," another concerned parent said. "You feel like you have no say so."

Henrico County Schools were asked to comment about the suspension numbers Tuesday, but said they were unable to do so at this time.

Stay with CBS 6 News and for continuing coverage of this developing story.