Over the past several months, parents, students, and community members have worked to pass a new school suspension resolution in Buffalo that will halt out-of-school suspension for non-violent offenses. In Buffalo, one out of every five students receives an out-of-school suspension, whereas the the New York state average is one out of every 20 students.
On Wednesday, January 25th, more than 100 people filled the Buffalo City Hall for yet another meeting on the district’s out-of-school suspension policy. Here’s an update from Brian Trzeciak, an education organier with Citizen Action of New York and the Alliance for Quality Education:
We had a great turnout last night at the Board of Education Meeting. Not only did we have standing room only again, people filled up the waiting room as well. There were easily more than 100 people in attendance.
As people walked into the room, they were greeted by a line of students. Some were in handcuffs and some held books. Every time a Board member (or anyone, really) walked by, they chanted “Books, not prison!” It was very effective. With all of the speakers who said what they did, to have a young child in handcuffs chanting “Books, not prison!” made the point. A lot of the press started off with that image and that message.
The meeting started off with Assistant Superintendent Will Keresztes describing what he had just given to the BoE as far as proposals from the Suspension Hearings. They are going to discuss these proposals on February 1st with the BoE, and Jay McCarthy publicly invited Citizen Action and AQE to attend. And that means all of you!
Ina started off very strong by handing the BoE the resolution which we enlarged to about 4 feet tall. Her message was simple. Since they ignored the resolution the last time, she blew it up for them so that they couldn’t ignore it this time. It was awesome. And they took it. The Interim Superintendent, Amber Dixon, did acknowledge the resolution at the end.
And speaker after speaker hit home. We chanted during. We kept the message that this was a race issue in the forefront. We had students at the podium talking about their friends with the utmost sincerity and affection. We had other students saying, “I’m not a bad kid, I just need help.” John from Occupy Buffalo played really bad cop and called the Board murderers. He clarified, as you’ll see in the clips. He stressed that this issue is that serious. Sherry let us know the staggering stat that a Buffalo student gets suspended every three minutes!
Danielle was the last to speak, and we all stood while she did. She rocked the house and summed up all of what and how we feel about this issue. All in all, if we wanted up the ante and put more pressure on, we did just that.
But all of our speakers, from calling the Board members out, to acknowledging the children and getting their voices heard . . . all of them made the point clear.
Out-of-school suspension for non-violent incidents needs to end now.
After hearing everything, Dixon told us, once again, to wait for change in a response that took less than 3 minutes.
It’s going to happen (we’ll make sure of that), but how long it will take is still up in the air. We need to think about the strategy for the 1st and the next BoE meeting on the 8th. We also have an Education Committee meeting in between there. I will be sending out an email within the next day with a complete schedule of events.
Last, but definitely not least, I want to thank all of you. You have made this movement what it is. You have the power and the voice that they are finally listening to. Thank you, members of Citizen Action and AQE, the board members of Citizen Action and AQE, all of our parents and children, and all of our leaders. We are going to win because of you.
But, for now, we still need to fight.
“Board members lambasted for inaction on suspension policy; tensions run high” – Buffalo News, SchoolZone blog
“Handcuffed students protest suspensions” – WIVB
“Suspension demonstration at school board meeting” – YNN