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BTF President: "disturbing" and "unacceptable" conditions in Buffalo Schools

Calls for new suspension practices
Posted at 6:08 PM, Jan 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 18:08:25-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Philip Rumore, the president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, said the results of a teacher survey reveal "disturbing school safety and unacceptable learning conditions." About a quarter of Buffalo teachers answered questions about disruptive student behavior and discipline practices.

The results:

  • 83% of teachers said disruptive student behavior is leading to unacceptable learning conditions
  • 71% of teachers agreed discipline and suspensions are under-reported in my school
  • 69% of students say administrators do not discuss how a student's behavior can be expected to improve before returning the student to class

The survey details teachers accounts of behavior and the disciplinary actions taken. Based on the results of the survey and the teacher's reports, the BTF asked the Buffalo School District to begin mandatory interventions with suspended students.

"Sending a student home does nothing," said Rumor, "What we're saying is when a student gets into trouble, and does something that gets them kicked out of school or in trouble, the district should be providing intervention services for them."

Buffalo Associate Superintendents Fatima Morrell and Tonja Williams said they are working on that exact problem. It's through a program called Restorative Justice. Teachers and administrators are trained to help find the root problem of students' behavior and work with parents and students to fix it.

"We know that we have 77% of our students living in poverty. We know that we have 77% of our students living in poverty. We know that we have 90% of our students with extraordinary needs. We know that we have to do restorative justice. We have to have trauma informed care," said Morell.

But Rumore said restorative justice is not enough.

"Restorative justice is one small piece," Rumor said, "It can work, but it's only one part."

"It will work. It will just take some time for everyone to be implementing it with fidelity," said Williams.

Buffalo School administrators said they will look into the BTF survey and make changes.

"We have to continue to just work closely with the BTF to bridge this divide. I hope that we're not divided," Morrell said.

Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash released a statement:

"Suspensions are a function of behavior. Behavior is a manifestation of what is going on in a child’s life. 90% of our students have extraordinary needs including trauma, depression, anxiety, and other health issues. All of us are part of the solution to helping our students grow into healthy adults – parents, students, teachers, staff, community. To this end, as an essential part of the Education Bargain, the District is providing an extraordinary array of services and supports for all of our students and an extraordinary menu of professional development for all of our staff, including teachers."