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Buffalo Public Schools’ disciplinary policies get more scrutiny

Several community and public school advocacy groups highlighted a decline in suspensions among the Buffalo school district’s students before Wednesday’s School Board meeting, where the board made further changes to its discipline policy and set a date to interview more candidates for the permanent appointment as school superintendent.

The 2010 shooting death of Lafayette High School student Jawaan Daniels led the Buffalo Public Schools to do some soul searching about how it disciplines students and it led community groups to push for change. The result: A decline in suspensions in at least half of all city schools from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Overall, the district’s short-term suspensions fell by 22 percent over the one-year period.

Daniels was supposed to have been in school on June 10, 2010 but was suspended that day for wandering the halls without permission. He was shot and killed while standing at a bus stop near his school.

Three years later, the School Board overhauled its Code of Conduct, making it much harder for school administrators to throw students out of school for minor offenses. Advocacy groups like Alliance for Quality Education highlighted the results in a 20-page report released Wednesday titled, “Restoring Justice in Buffalo Public Schools.” The report includes a timeline and results for Buffalo Public Schools.

During Wednesday night’s School Board meeting, the board approved further changes to its district discipline policy that allows students to do community service as means of accountability, and allows students to use cell phones in school if approved by the principal for “specific educational purposes.”

While many heralded the changes to the district’s Code of Conduct, some school administrators and teachers have subsequently complained that their hands have been tied when it comes to dealing with students who are chronic troublemakers and disruptive to classrooms.

Those who worked with the district on the creation of a revised discipline policy in 2013 said that schools still have many options on dealing with student offenders are should not consider the Code of Conduct to be a barrier to holding students accountable.

“Administrator hands aren’t tied. There are lots and lots of options,” said Kaitlin Banner, a staff attorney who works on education issues as part of the Washington, D.C.-based Advancement Project.

She and others said the district can still enforce rules, but urged administrators to be more creative in their approach, using other types of conflict resolution, or detention and in-school suspensions. Removing students from school and denying them an education isn’t a good short-term or long-term solution, she said. Advocates for the Code of Conduct also said they want to see more schools implement the discipline policy the way it was intended, which they believe is not happening now.

In regard to the continuing search for a permanent superintendent, the board agreed Wednesday to interview two more candidates on Tuesday, both of them from out-of-town.

The board interviewed three internal candidates last week, bringing the total of serious contenders for the job to five. After the board finishes its interviews with the two additional candidates, it will decide whether any further interviews or expanded searching is necessary.

Board member Carl Paladino had submitted a resolution to appoint Harvey Austin School Principal Kevin Eberle to the superintendent’s seat, but he was not present at Wednesday’s board meeting to recommend his own resolution for approval. The board voted 6-2 to drop the resolution after a motion to table Paladino’s resolution failed.

For a full breakdown of Wednesday’s board meeting, review the live coverage on the School Zone blog at