BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–The Buffalo Teachers Federation, on Friday, released the results of a teacher survey that claims under reporting of student suspensions and other disciplinary action is leading to dangerous conditions in the classroom.
According to the union, the Buffalo school district has to do more to root out the cause of students’ unacceptable behavior so it can be corrected, and prevent it being repeated.
One of the findings BTF President Phil Rumore cited in the survey, nearly three fourths of teachers believe suspensions are underreported.
“What that does is it creates an unsafe learning condition for the students that are there that want to learn. But what is most troubling about it, if you don’t suspend a student the student can’t get the assistance that they need.”
But Buffalo Public Schools have been under fire for overuse of suspensions, especially among students of color, so Rumore is calling for a greater emphasis on intervention to correct the behavior of disruptive students.
“If a student curses you out, yells and starts a fight, and starts throwing things around, having that student come back to the room, what is the message to the rest of the kids? It says that is okay. But just suspending the student, what good is that?”
So the BTF is calling on the school district to hire more counselors and social workers to help students in crisis.
Associate Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams said the district is making progress through the process of restorative intervention. Williams said it is part of the district’s “education bargain.”
“It is about working collaboratively with parents, and us working collaboratively with our community-based partners. That is what the education bargain is about.”
Dr. Fatima Morrell is the district’s Associate Superintendent of Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Initiatives, and cited a teacher’s emotional testimony, of how restorative justice can be crucial.
“That he felt he actually saved a student’s life by not having that student suspended. This is the kind of work that we are doing now in Buffalo.”
Buffalo Public Schools officials say 90 percent of their students have extraordinary needs including trauma, depression, and other health issues. Seventy-seven percent of the student population comes from poverty.
Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash said the District is providing a wide array of services and supports for students and teachers. He had no comment to the BTF’s request for more counselors and social workers.