There are enough questions over the admissions process for criteria-based schools in Buffalo that the district is rightly going to take a new look at its procedures.
The debate has been given momentum with a complaint filed by three parents with the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights alleging the district’s admissions policy discriminated against minorities, especially African-Americans and Hispanics.
It is safe to say that this evaluation is necessary for the continued credibility of the way students are selected for the city’s top-rated schools. Whether the study will lead to sweeping changes that some parents have suggested would rival school desegregation remains to be seen. To be sure, there are likely to be some changes, as there have been in the past.
There should never be the perception of bias for or against students because of the color of their skin, religion, sexual preference or anything else. Where subjective criteria are part of the selection process, steps should be taken to ensure that decisions are not weighted in a manner that discriminates against any group.
To guard against such claims, the school district must be open and transparent about its process. The school district has volunteered to review, revise and/or expand the admissions processes at its criteria-based schools.
As reported, this likely means more minority students will be admitted to City Honors, Olmsted 64 and Olmsted 156, Leonardo DaVinci High School, Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, Emerson School of Hospitality and the Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. All of these schools, except Performing Arts, are deemed schools in good standing by the State Education Department.
It took a complaint filed by parents Patricia Elliott-Patton, Carolette Meadows and Desire Radford, the sister of District Parent Coordinating Council President Samuel Radford, to get the attention of federal officials, which led to the voluntary effort by the district. All three parents are members of the District Parent Coordinating Council.
The Office of Civil Rights, which is responsible for enforcing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, launched an investigation in March into the district’s admissions policies and said it will suspend further investigation as long as the district complies with the conditions.
The agreement stipulates that the district retain a consultant by September to study and make recommendations on how to improve access for all students at the criteria-based schools, which also include Middle Early College.
Each of the eight schools under review has specific standards students must meet in order to gain entry. The requirements can be complex to navigate for parents and students alike.
City Honors, viewed as the educational gold standard in Buffalo, is 64 percent white in a school district that is 70 percent minority. Because of those percentages, City Honors is the focus of criticism by parents who understandably want their children to have the best and highest quality education. The district’s evaluation will help sort out whether the application process puts up roadblocks to students based on race.