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Buffalo schools are doing a better job of keeping students in the classroom

The Buffalo School District has managed to make some progress in handling student disciplinary problems within certain buildings.

That much was made clear at a recent School Board meeting during which several community and public school advocacy groups pointed out a decline in suspensions among students.

As reported by The News’ Sandra Tan, suspensions declined in at least half of all city schools from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Overall, the district’s short-term suspensions declined by 22 percent over a one-year period.

Several years ago, even that much progress seemed out of reach as hundreds of students received an out-of-school suspension every month.

The alarming numbers of suspensions seemed to disturb even some top-level district officials. Yet, the practice persisted until the tragic 2010 shooting death of Lafayette High School student Jawaan Daniels.

Daniels should have been in school on June 10, 2010. Except he had been suspended and ordered out of the school that day for wandering the halls without permission. He was shot and killed while standing at a bus stop near his school. The loss of this young man finally caught the attention of the community, school administration and the School Board. Community and school leaders worked together to dramatically improve what had been a failed policy.

This page called back then for “a progressive and intervention-rich school environment that draws on restorative justice exercises for students and peer mediation.”

Three years after Daniels’ death, the School Board overhauled its Code of Conduct. It is now harder for school administrators to throw students out of school for minor offenses. The resulting drop in suspensions was outlined in a 20-page report released last week by Alliance for Quality Education, “Restoring Justice in Buffalo Public Schools.”

Not everyone is happy with the changes. Some teachers and administrators feel they do not have the latitude needed to properly discipline misbehaving students. Their concerns should not be downplayed but the general aim of the policy is sound: Students need to be in school in order to learn. Now more schools should implement the discipline policy the way it was intended.