This election is more than just about our next President. Our local elections will determine the path we take to ending the school-to-prison pipeline and creating equity in our local communities. We're committed to working to remove School Resource Officers (SROs) from our public schools and making our schools safe for all students.

The ACLU of NC is a non-partisan organization that believes that voters should be fully informed about the civil liberties’ records of candidates before casting a ballot. We do not endorse or oppose candidates for office. We believe in educating voters about the issues at stake in key elections. Our voter education work is designed to protect and advance civil rights and civil liberties. 

In addition to capturing YES and NO responses, we gave every candidate the opportunity to share additional thoughts for each question. Additional information provided by candidates is below.

1. Deborah Prickett (D1)

Q.Deborah Prickett (D1)
A.
  • Will you support removing School Resource Officers (SROs) from public schools in your county?

No. SROs are in many of our high schools and some middle schools at the request of local principals, administrative staff, families, and community groups. Other safety organizations can be used as well depending on the school’s proximity to resources. The current board just voted unanimously to extend the present SRO contract. As a result of the study from the Governor’s Crime Commission in 2019 after the Parkland School massacre, the NC Department of Public Safety suggested that every school in the state needed a police officer on campus. I think it is important to consider the needs of each school independently with dialogue and buy-in from the administrators and community since the resource officer becomes a part of the school staff. Some middle schools may choose to use another type of contracted safety service or varying work schedules; so, flexibility is important.


  • Will you prioritize reallocating money from SROs and investing in programs that will allow schools to create and implement restorative justice programs? 

No. If a student doesn’t feel safe, then learning suffers. As I mentioned in my previous response, safety measures are being requested by administrators, school staff, families, and community groups. At present, we have excellent social workers, psychologists, counselors, and nurses on the WCPSS staff that are knowledgeable about family and youth outreach programs. I was actually a teacher and counselor for 20 years advocating for students and supporting families. There are only so many funds to reallocate with the largest portion of the WCPSS budget going to staffing costs. It could be that other state or local agencies would want to become more involved by implementing additional resources.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate rates at which Black and Brown students are given criminal charges for school-based behavior in your school system?

Yes. I will be researching the current data and addressing school-based behavior as necessary for all students just like I did when I was elected to the school board in 2009-13.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate suspension rates for Black and Brown students in your school system? 

Yes. I will be looking at and addressing suspension rates as necessary for all students just like I did when I was elected to the school board.


  • Will you support updating your county school’s police and due process practices so that it discourages police interactions with students for behavioral issues? 

Yes. Most behavioral issues are handled in-house by school administrators. In addition, local administrators have the support of area superintendents and the WCPSS superintendent who has been a principal. The police go through an extensive training process before working in schools that address handling behavioral issues. They also work closely with school administrators and area superintendents when their services are requested. There is a process for changing school policies that would need to be followed.


  • Will you support increasing funding for and the number of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists in your county schools? 

No. The current funding should be sufficient at this time especially considering that COVID plans are in place and virtual learning is being utilized. There may be budget adjustments due to COVID that require further evaluation.


  • Have you addressed School Justice Partnerships (SJP) and do you support SJPs? 

Yes. As stated before, I was a school counselor and worked with outside agencies to help students. Many of the K-12 afterschool centers that I monitored with NC Department of Public Instruction had relationships with SJPs.

 

2. Heather Scott (D1)

Q.Heather Scott (D1)
A.
  • Will you support removing School Resource Officers (SROs) from public schools in your county?

No. We are not yet at a point where I can support the removal of SRO’s in all WCPSS schools. It is urgent that we listen to the community and students who have had negative experiences to shape and refine the roles and expectations of SRO’s in our schools. Some students have had positive experiences and other students have not. Students of color are disproportionately referred to SRO’s. This must stop. We need to fully fund our counselors and better support students with special needs. I strongly support an increased use of restorative justice programs in our schools as well, especially as an alternative to disciplinary measures where a child is removed from school or referred to the court system.


  • Will you prioritize reallocating money from SROs and investing in programs that will allow schools to create and implement restorative justice programs? 

Yes. Studies have shown that students who participate in a structured restorative justice program, along with other social-emotional supports in place, have more positive outcomes and fewer repeat offenses. These programs can have a long-term positive impact on the student’s life.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate rates at which Black and Brown students are given criminal charges for school-based behavior in your school system?

Yes. The WCPSS has recently asked staff to take a deeper look at this and we will continue to examine the Student Code of Conduct to promote positive expectations in a clear way. We must also make sure that teachers and principals understand these expectations and feel supported when guiding their students.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate suspension rates for Black and Brown students in your school system? 

Yes. We have to find out why these disproportionate referrals and suspension rates continue to occur. This is an additional way restorative justice programs and alternative learning opportunities can help a student remain in the classroom and access their education.


  • Will you support updating your county school’s police and due process practices so that it discourages police interactions with students for behavioral issues? 

Yes. The WCPSS has already started this work. I fully support the positive changes in the Student Code of Conduct that have already been made. WCPSS is preparing to take a deeper look at changes to the Memorandum of Understanding with local law enforcement agencies who provide SRO’s. This work must be ongoing and involve feedback from all stakeholders.


  • Will you support increasing funding for and the number of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists in your county schools? 

Yes. We absolutely need our State and Federal funding to assist with this, but I am pleased that our Wake County Commissioners value these roles within our schools and do help fill the gap when our other funding sources fall short. We are still not close to the recommended ratios and I strongly and personally advocate that other branches of government follow Wake County’s lead


  • Have you addressed School Justice Partnerships (SJP) and do you support SJPs? 

Yes. While the WCPSS does not yet have an official SJP, they do have an Office of Equity Affairs. Part of their work addresses criminal court diversion and monitoring the use of programs such as Campbell Law School’s restorative justice clinic in several schools. I believe we can implement even more aspects of the SJPs to ensure more positive outcomes for all students.

3. Dorian Hamilton (D2)

Q.Dorian Hamilton (D2)
A.

Candidate did not respond to questionnaire. 

4. Gregory Hahn (D2)

Q.Gregory Hahn (D2)
A.
  • Will you support removing School Resource Officers (SROs) from public schools in your county?

No. Wake County School Board Policy promises students, families, and all staff a safe and orderly working environment.


  • Will you prioritize reallocating money from SROs and investing in programs that will allow schools to create and implement restorative justice programs? 

No. 


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate rates at which Black and Brown students are given criminal charges for school-based behavior in your school system?

No. I believe everyone should be held accountable for their actions. This question seems to focus on the end result and suggests that there is targeting happening in our schools rather than possibly improving the process.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate suspension rates for Black and Brown students in your school system? 

No. I believe everyone should be held accountable for their actions. In fact, suspensions have declined the past year for black students: In 2018-19 167 short-term suspensions compared to 187 in 2017-18. Again, this question seems to focus on the end result and suggests that there is targeting happening in our schools rather than possibly improving the process.


  • Will you support updating your county school’s police and due process practices so that it discourages police interactions with students for behavioral issues? 

No. I support WCBOE 6606: The SRO shall refrain from questioning students at school regarding non-school-related matters unless the SRO has a warrant or unless questioning, searching, or arresting a student on school property at that time is necessary, in the discretion of the SRO, for the success of a law enforcement investigation or to prevent injury or crime.


  • Will you support increasing funding for and the number of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists in your county schools? 

No. The School Board needs to look at where the money is going to make sure that we are getting the best return on our investment.


  • Have you addressed School Justice Partnerships (SJP) and do you support SJPs? 

No. Roughly 40% of all juvenile justice complaints in North Carolina originate in schools and most referrals are for non-violent offenses. Again, it's the process that needs to be looked at and evaluated.

5. Monika Johnson (D2)

Q.Monika Johnson (D2)
A.
  • Will you support removing School Resource Officers (SROs) from public schools in your county?

No response. I firmly believe student academic achievement and successful outcomes should not be determined by demographics or status. Thus, I am committed to implementing Peacebuilders or a similar structure to address student success and safety. Educational institutions were not designed to teach or reach all and it is the responsibility of school leaders and educators to create the climate for all students to access and achieve a quality education. To that end, the experiences of student who have shared how school resource officers have prohibited their success must be centered. Student success and safety are intertwined, if students don’t feel safe it impacts their academic success; whatever we create must address both. We are hearing various opinions and recommendations from our students and families thus all voices are included in our process which is timely, the voices of our young people have moved the conversation to the forefront.


  • Will you prioritize reallocating money from SROs and investing in programs that will allow schools to create and implement restorative justice programs? 

No response. I have asked for clarity on the use of the appropriation that goes to the SRO programs and my decision will we based on what is allowable. Regardless of the outcome, we will have to continue advocacy efforts for funding to build the capacity of restorative justice programs across the district. The current level of funding based on what is allocated to SRO and the funding currently used for restorative justice models will require additional funding.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate rates at which Black and Brown students are given criminal charges for school-based behavior in your school system?

Yes. The district's commitment to equity is not matched by funding. Therefore, to achieve the desired outcomes for our students of color we have to simultaneous change attitudes and beliefs and garner funding for implementation. Our schools in Wake and across this country reflect the disproportionate impact on communities of color. I believe schools are the one place where all students should be able to thrive. Addressing SRO and restorative practices are steps in the right direction. Additionally, it is also time to address it through teacher preparation and student education. In order to create culture change, it has to be addressed at all levels- individual, organization, community, society.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate suspension rates for Black and Brown students in your school system? 

Yes. 


  • Will you support updating your county school’s police and due process practices so that it discourages police interactions with students for behavioral issues? 

Yes. 


  • Will you support increasing funding for and the number of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists in your county schools? 

Yes. 


  • Have you addressed School Justice Partnerships (SJP) and do you support SJPs? 

Yes. 

6. Roxie Cash (D3)

Q.Roxie Cash (D3)
A.

Candidate did not respond to questionnaire.

7. Keith Sutton (D4)

Q.Keith Sutton (D4)
A.
  • Will you support removing School Resource Officers (SROs) from public schools in your county?

Yes. If this is the outcome of the review process and reform effort that we agree to put into place after receiving input from stakeholders.


  • Will you prioritize reallocating money from SROs and investing in programs that will allow schools to create and implement restorative justice programs? 

Yes. I would include this as part of a set or reforms and priorities that provide better support to students and schools.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate rates at which Black and Brown students are given criminal charges for school-based behavior in your school system?

Yes. 


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate suspension rates for Black and Brown students in your school system? 

Yes. 


  • Will you support updating your county school’s police and due process practices so that it discourages police interactions with students for behavioral issues? 

Yes. This too should be part of our review and reform efforts.


  • Will you support increasing funding for and the number of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists in your county schools? 

Yes. 


  • Have you addressed School Justice Partnerships (SJP) and do you support SJPs? 

Yes. 

8. Jim Martin (D5)

Q.Jim Martin (D5)
A.
  • Will you support removing School Resource Officers (SROs) from public schools in your county?

No Response. School boards do not have the authority to declare schools as places where police officers cannot be present. Furthermore, from my personal experience, the greatest conflicts with law enforcement in our schools have occurred when rank-and-file police officers, instead of SRO’s, take action at schools. So, whether SRO’s or another program, it is necessary to establish an effective relationship with law enforcement such that any engagements are as constructive as possible, and any officer engaged at a school is fully trained in strategies of de-escalation with a particular focus on engagement with diverse youth.


  • Will you prioritize reallocating money from SROs and investing in programs that will allow schools to create and implement restorative justice programs? 

No Response. I have been, and will continue to be, a strong advocate for restorative justice programs. I further will continue efforts to increase the number of nurses, social workers, counsellors and psychologists in our schools to the nationally-recommended levels. This will require at least a tripling of our SEL workforce. Currently, our SEL workforce significantly out-numbers the SRO work force. There are currently only 75 SRO’s. Even if full funding from SRO programs were transitioned to other efforts, it would still not even be enough to increase the number of social workers in WCPSS such that there could be one social worker per school. We need about 90 additional social workers to increase the current ~100 social workers to a minimum of one social worker per school. Thus, my advocacy will be to State and local sources to fully fund an SEL workforce in all schools.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate rates at which Black and Brown students are given criminal charges for school-based behavior in your school system?

No response. Current policy does not allow for criminal charges to be given for school-based behavior. Policies, including the current SRO MOU make it explicitly clear that school behavior is solely the responsibility of the school administration. SRO’s have no authority over school behavior. If/when there is any violation of this policy, it must be confronted directly and addressed. It is also important that the Board of Education continue our review of all SRO referrals to understand any cases where school-based behavior, which should only be addressed by the school administration, may have escalated into a confrontation with law enforcement leading to any criminal charges.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate suspension rates for Black and Brown students in your school system? 

Yes. I will continue to work toward restorative justice for all students, giving particular attention to disproportionality with respect to black and brown students. From a policy perspective, I believe we have made great strides in changing the narrative from discipline as punishment to discipline focused on changed behavior and restorative justice. Significant work remains, however, to enculturate this mindset.


  • Will you support updating your county school’s police and due process practices so that it discourages police interactions with students for behavioral issues? 

No response. Our policies already address this matter: School behavioral issues are solely the responsibility of the school administration. Note the clear statements in the WCPSS SRO MOU Article III section 4, “School Discipline. The school administrator shall be solely responsible for implementing the Student Code of Conduct and discipline policies. The school administration, not the SRO, has the primary responsibility for maintaining order in the school environment and for investigating and responding to school disciplinary matters. The SRO shall refer any reports or concerns relating to student discipline to the principal or designee and shall not independently investigate or administer consequences for violations of the Student Code of Conduct or any school disciplinary rules.”


  • Will you support increasing funding for and the number of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists in your county schools? 

Yes. Increasing funding for the SEL workforce is a high priority of mine. When I served as Board Chair in 2018-19, I worked for this to be one of the five-year initiative priorities in the school system’s budget. I am disappointed that the second-year funding of this initiative was not realized, but I will continue to advocate for this need. Importantly, it costs approximately $12 million to place just one entry level professional in each WCPSS school. Thus, to appropriately fund an SEL workforce will require more than $50 million in the WCPSS. Statewide, an approximately $500 million investment is needed. Such needs require a larger and more comprehensive effort than can be accomplished with any reallocation.


  • Have you addressed School Justice Partnerships (SJP) and do you support SJPs? 

Yes. The School Justice Partnership work is in process. Notably, the State’s recommendations for the SJP were generally less substantial than policies currently in place in WCPSS. Nevertheless, work is on-going to form effective School Justice Partnerships.

9. Christine Kushner (D6)

Q.Christine Kushner (D6)
A.
  • Will you support removing School Resource Officers (SROs) from public schools in your county?

No Response. I support re-imagining the roles and training of law enforcement/public safety officers in our community and our schools. When funding is available, I strongly support additional counselors, mental health professionals, and social supports for our students, educators, and public schools to de-escalate threatening situations and manage discipline and behavior. I support thorough MOUs with local law enforcement agencies to outline school system expectations of how law enforcement officers engage with our school communities.


  • Will you prioritize reallocating money from SROs and investing in programs that will allow schools to create and implement restorative justice programs? 

No Response. I have supported restorative justice and restorative practices in our schools during my time on the School Board. I have advocated and voted for funding restorative justice programs, and I helped lead a collaborative effort, with then-District Judge Vince Rozier, to implement diversion programs for Wake County to prevent youth from entering the criminal justice system. 


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate rates at which Black and Brown students are given criminal charges for school-based behavior in your school system?

Yes. The disproportionate rates of suspension and punishment reflect our society's systemic racism, and our Board must address this issue. We cannot be neutral.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate suspension rates for Black and Brown students in your school system? 

Yes. Suspensions disrupt education, and our Board must work to reduce disproportionate suspension rates.


  • Will you support updating your county school’s police and due process practices so that it discourages police interactions with students for behavioral issues? 

Yes. During my time on the School Board, my colleagues and I have revised Board policies with the goal of decreasing police interactions with students. I support continuing to work on policies, procedures, and agreements that serve this goal.


  • Will you support increasing funding for and the number of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists in your county schools? 

Yes. Emphatically--yes. Almost every year I have been on the Board, I have advocated for additional school counselors, social workers, and school psychologists for our students and schools. We have secured increases, but WCPSS still lags behind the nationally recommended ratios of these needed professionals in our schools, mainly due to the lack of state funding. The state legislature has failed to provide the constitutionally required funding for our public schools. Having counselors, social workers, nurses, and psychologists more prevalent in our schools is the key strategy to helping our students deal with mental health issues, trauma, and other problems that lead to disruptions in their education.


  • Have you addressed School Justice Partnerships (SJP) and do you support SJPs? 

Yes. I support NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley's work on School Justice Partnerships. I want to learn more about Chief District Court Judge Robert Rader's partnership here in Wake County, and I commit to learning ways I can support this work as a School Board member, both in Wake County and statewide. https://www.nccourts.gov/news/tag/press-release/chief-justice-beasley-co...

10. Chris Heagarty (D7)

Q.Chris Heagarty (D7)
A.
  • Will you support removing School Resource Officers (SROs) from public schools in your county?

No Response. The Board is studying this now but has not reached a conclusion yet. It appears to me that our current SRO program is not working. I would work to with the community to reform or replace it with a system that uses de-escalation and conflict resolution techniques that are appropriate for a school environment and promote safety not criminalization.


  • Will you prioritize reallocating money from SROs and investing in programs that will allow schools to create and implement restorative justice programs? 

No Response. Staff tells us that many of our SRO positions are not funded by the school system, but are either fully funded or partially subsidized by local law enforcement agencies, so eliminating those positions will not result in much funding that can be reallocated. If SROs are removed from schools, funds should be used to created a replacement program that uses restorative practices, conflict resolution, and de-escalation techniques to maintain student safety without promoting criminalization.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate rates at which Black and Brown students are given criminal charges for school-based behavior in your school system?

Yes. 


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate suspension rates for Black and Brown students in your school system? 

Yes. 


  • Will you support updating your county school’s police and due process practices so that it discourages police interactions with students for behavioral issues? 

No response. I am open to review of these policies, and would be inclined to support updates that are needed but I would need more information about what the updated policy would look like before committing to it.


  • Will you support increasing funding for and the number of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists in your county schools? 

Yes. Yes, and we have already done this. In our 2019 budget were succeeded in greatly increasing funding for schools counselors, social workers, and psychologists across our district. However, the ratios of these important staff to our students are still too low, and more should be done.


  • Have you addressed School Justice Partnerships (SJP) and do you support SJPs? 

Yes. The Board has been working with state and local officials to create a SJP in Wake County. Attorneys for WCPSS have been negotiating terms with representatives of the courts, but no final agreement has been adopted. Work on this matter was interrupted by COVID-19 before all of the final details were worked out.

11. Rachel Mills (D7)

Q.Rachel Mills (D7)
A.

Candidate did not respond to questionnaire.

12. Lindsay Mahaffey (D8)

Q.Lindsay Mahaffey (D8)
A.
  • Will you support removing School Resource Officers (SROs) from public schools in your county?

No Response. WCPSS is currently revising their MOU with Law Enforcement regarding the SRO program. Discussions with Community groups & members as well as Law Enforcement Agencies will be the main driver to this update and reform.


  • Will you prioritize reallocating money from SROs and investing in programs that will allow schools to create and implement restorative justice programs? 

No Response. This will be driven by the conversation in the previous response. WCPSS is in talks with a municipality to pilot the Peace Builders program. We have been intentional in expanding our restorative practices and I would like to see those expanded.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate rates at which Black and Brown students are given criminal charges for school-based behavior in your school system?

Yes. WCPSS has been reforming the code of student conduct to be less of a zero-tolerance rules book and allow for more restorative measures. Changes to this do not happen overnight and culture must shift as well. WCPSS has expanded the work of the office of equity affairs to help address issues such as racial disparity, and implicit bias but the suspension numbers and SRO referral numbers still show a disproportionate number of Black and Brown students are suspended or referred. There is more work to do.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate suspension rates for Black and Brown students in your school system? 

Yes. Schools are a place where students should feel safe. WCPSS has increased the funding for social workers, counselors and school psychologists. The office of Equity Affairs has also seen an increase in fundings to address racial disparities and implicit bias. WCPSS has also been changing the code of student conduct to be more restorative in practice instead of prescriptive and zero tolerance. Culture shifts don't happen overnight and there is more work to do to address this.


  • Will you support updating your county school’s police and due process practices so that it discourages police interactions with students for behavioral issues? 

Yes. The Board of Education is in conversation with the community and law enforcement to update the Memorandum of Understanding for SROs. WCPSS recently updated its relationships with law enforcement policy and has been refining the code of conduct to change student due process.


  • Will you support increasing funding for and the number of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists in your county schools? 

Yes. WCPSS has begun to increase the number of counselors, social workers, and psychologists in the district. I am committed to continuing this work with the help of the Wake County Commission and advocating for more funding for these positions at the State level.


  • Have you addressed School Justice Partnerships (SJP) and do you support SJPs? 

No response. WCPSS has discussed School Justice Partnerships, and we are looking into what the adoption of an SJP would look like in Wake County Public Schools. Currently, WCPSS has a partnership with Campbell Law for mediation and does diversion programs such as Teen Court. I would be open to exploring more opportunities.

13. Steve Bergstrom (D8)

Q.Steve Bergstrom (D8)
A.

Candidate did not respond to questionnaire. 

14. Bill Fletcher (D9)

Q.Bill Fletcher (D9)
A.
  • Will you support removing School Resource Officers (SROs) from public schools in your county?

No. The Wake SRO program is currently being reviewed by the Board. Let's see what the review shows.


  • Will you prioritize reallocating money from SROs and investing in programs that will allow schools to create and implement restorative justice programs? 

No. Additional resources are needed to increase support more social workers, nurses, school counselors. The need is great for these professionals.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate rates at which Black and Brown students are given criminal charges for school-based behavior in your school system?

Yes. The Board has implemented numerous strategies to improve student engagement and decision making and reduce negative consequences, especially referrals to the justice system.


  • Will you commit to addressing the disproportionate suspension rates for Black and Brown students in your school system? 

Yes. The Board is continuously working to have all students feel safe and secure in school and increase awareness of and empathy for different cultures and life experiences.


  • Will you support updating your county school’s police and due process practices so that it discourages police interactions with students for behavioral issues? 

Yes. Wake SRO memorandum of understanding and SRO training clearly define the role for SROs in schools. They are not the disciplinarians.


  • Will you support increasing funding for and the number of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists in your county schools? 

Yes. Additional funding is needed for these critical support systems in all of our schools.


  • Have you addressed School Justice Partnerships (SJP) and do you support SJPs? 

Yes. The Board has implemented several diversionary strategies and will continue to do so.

15. Daniel Madding (D9)

Q.Daniel Madding (D9)
A.

Candidate did not respond to questionnaire.

16. Karen Carter (D9)

Q.Karen Carter (D9)
A.

Candidate did not respond to questionnaire.