Lori Quigley recalled when the principal of a Buffalo school asked her, "How can you stand to live down there (in Salamanca) with all those Indians?"
Quigley, a Native American, used her personal experience Thursday as an example of the hostile attitudes children might encounter in the school system.
An assistant professor of education at Buffalo State College, she was among the workshop speakers at a Race and Reconciliation Conference sponsored by the Buffalo Commission on Citizens' Rights and Community Relations, which attracted about 300 people to Canisius College.
The workshop topic was student achievement in the classroom and whether race makes a difference.
Race itself does not affect a child's ability to learn, but it could present some obstacles, such as teachers lacking cultural sensitivity, she said.
Heriberto Galarza, president of the state Association for Bilingual Education, said 162 languages are spoken in state schools and more than 50 languages are spoken in Buffalo schools.
It is imperative a child gets the help he needs early, "or you lose him forever," he said.
At another workshop -- "Race & Regionalism: An Inclusive or Exclusive Plan?" -- Common Council President James Pitts and regionalism advocate Kevin Gaughan were the principal speakers.
Pitts said regionalism has been presented as "the great panacea" for the area's problems, but race has yet to become part of the discussion, and minorities lose representation under regionalism.
The transportation system fails to provide service for city residents with jobs in the suburbs, Pitts said.
Gaughan didn't debate Pitts so much as offer his own perspective.
Regionalism is not consolidation but cooperation among levels of government for greater efficiency and savings, he said.
One countywide school district should be looked at, although it seems that middle-size districts work best, Gaughan said. And making the city larger by annexation should be studied.
He agreed with Pitts that the transportation system "is one of the last vestiges of racism" because city residents have no access to jobs in the suburbs.