The new school year has begun, and so has the disproportionate suspension rate of Black and Latino students in the Buffalo Public School District. Members of Citizen Action of New York and the Alliance for Quality Education held a rally on the steps of City Hall and presented demands to the Board of Education that include:
- Revising the Code of Conduct so that it reflects a clear end to out-of-school suspensions for non-violent incidents by changing the discipline code from punitive to intervention-based.
- Including the community in all aspects of the revision of the Code of Conduct.
- Fully implement the Superintendent’s Regulation set in March of 2012.
Speakers included Common Council Member Demone Smith, Justine Harris, retired Buffalo Police Officer, Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education, Billy Easton, and the Associate Superintendent for the Buffalo Public School District, Will Keresztes, who addressed the district’s position on the subject of the Code of Conduct as well as suspension.
“I think it’s not fair that students who have been suspended need to rush and get caught up. If we were in school, we would at least have a chance. We need to end out of school suspensions now. I want to stay in school and get the education that I deserve!” said Shawnyce Jackson, 8th grader at Waterfront School.
“Working as a team with the community, the school district is charting a new course. We are shifting from a punitive system for addressing student misconduct to a restorative one based on interventions,” said Associate Superintendent Will Keresztes.
“Our students are more discouraged by their obstacles than encouraged by their potential, and so, we find more suspensions rather than interventions in our Buffalo School District. It’s time to stop this vicious cycle: schools to prison! It’s time to change the policy so we educate and not incarcerate!” said Justine Harris, Retired Buffalo Police Department School Resource Officer.
“As chair of the Common Council’s Education Committee, we will continue working with the Board of Education to stop the push out of our students. We need solutions, not more suspensions in our Buffalo schools. I support the work that Citizen Action and the Alliance for Quality Education is doing by calling for a revision of the Code of Conduct to eliminate a punitive response in favor of a supportive one that meets the needs of all children and creates a safe, productive learning and teaching environment for all members of our school community,” said Common Council Member Demone Smith.
“I try to do my best in school, but it seems that no matter how hard I try, I end up getting suspended for small things. I’m tired of getting suspended from school. It’s tough for me, and I need help that I’m not getting right now. We need to change this because I want to graduate!” said Jovanna Young, 10th Grader at Riverside School.
“We support looking for root causes for behaviors that lead to suspensions. We look forward to working with Citizen Action and AQE toward solutions,” said Phil Rumore, President of Buffalo Teachers Federation.
“Far too many students are missing far too many days of school due to out of school suspensions in Buffalo,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “As the Buffalo schools rewrite the student Code of Conduct they have the opportunity to transform their approach from one that is far too punitive to one that is based on constructive interventions that keep students in school. We are hopeful they will make this urgent and critical change in student policies and procedures. In New York State we cannot educate the 21st Century workforce if students are not even in our school buildings due to overuse of out-of-school suspensions.”