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Group protests suspension policy for city students

A group of parents, students and community members Wednesday took to the steps of City Hall to call on the Buffalo Board of Education to end the district's practice of suspending students for nonviolent infractions.
The rally, led by Citizen Action of New York and the Alliance for Quality Education, attracted about 30 people seeking revisions to the district's Code of Conduct, which they said disproportionately affects black and Hispanic students.
"We're here to ask the Buffalo School Board to revise the current Code of Conduct so that the Buffalo Public School District changes from a punitive, punishment-based system of discipline to an intervention-based system, so that suspension is used only as a last resort," said James Anderson of Citizen Action.
A sophomore at Riverside Institute of Technology was among the speakers who shared her personal experience with being suspended from school more than once for talking back to a teacher.
"The crazy part about this is, when my mom comes to school, I don't get suspended," she said.
Gayla Thompson of Citizen Action said the School Board is awaiting a draft revision of the district's Code of Conduct that would focus on changing its disciplinary policy.
"It would be more specific because it would explain what the infractions are and get rid of the vagueness," Thompson said. "We want something now that is going to keep children in school. We have a great need for children to be in school to learn."
Joining those at the rally was Will Keresztes, associate superintendent for educational services, who said the district already has been working with community members to revise the Code of Conduct.
"This relationship kind of had a rocky start. The thing that excites me and really inspires me is that we've done a lot of things together in the last six months," Keresztes said. "As a result of that, we've made impressive progress."
Keresztes added that "it was part of your inspiration that caused us to hire four additional social workers in the spring and then seven [more] for this coming October."
A draft revision of the Code of Conduct will be presented to the School Board next month, said Brian Trzeciak, education organizer for Citizen Action.