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  • Writer's pictureScott for Buffalo Schools

Fact Checking the NYCLU & Legal Aid Bureau on Suspensions

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

February 21, 2023

Last week, representatives from the New York Civil Liberties Union and Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo authored an “Another Voice” critical of suspensions in Buffalo Public Schools. The piece made the very dubious and misleading claims with data that I covered in a Viewpoints piece published this past October (Also see: Approach to Behavior Must be Balanced with Accountability).

First, they make the claim that BPS, last year, was “likely the top-suspending district in the state”, linking to a biased source that references data from the 2016-17 school year. I am unaware of any accessible 2021-22 data from the NYS Education Department on other districts to substantiate this regurgitated claim.

Second, they cherry-pick this past month of January, saying its “suspension numbers eclipsed January 2021.” It is true that there was an uptick in suspensions for this past January; however, the fact remains, suspensions are still down for the entire school year compared to last year (-11% for short-term suspensions and -19% for long-term suspensions). Any educator working in schools will tell you that schools experience ebbs and flows in student behavior throughout a school year, with fluctuations in behavioral referrals and suspensions. Cherry-picking one month to satisfy one’s preconceived narrative is shortsighted.

The authors then claim that “there is a better way” and references New York City as the example of decreasing suspensions. It links to a report indicating that NYC reduced suspensions last school year by 23%, since the 2018-19 school year. This is certainly noteworthy; however, in the same time period there was an 18% drop in suspensions in BPS. Perhaps, the Buffalo Board of Education and BPS have embraced this “better way” and we have been just as intentional about decreasing suspensions and investing in “proven alternatives”, as NYC.

The authors rightfully mention the continued concern of disproportionality in suspensions for students with disabilities and Black students, a problem that exists in other urban districts, as well as suburban districts. Coincidentally, an EducationWeek published report on February 17, 2023, includes an NYCLU analysis indicating that NYC Schools had a 14% increase in police intervention in 2022 compared to 2019, and 87% of students involved were disproportionately Black or Hispanic. Without any data on police interventions in other districts, I’m not going to make the same mistake of nefariously shaming NYC Schools for this outcome. In fact, I would not be surprised if there was an uptick in police intervention in BPS, last year, as well as in many other school districts throughout the nation.

These tactics are disappointing from the NYCLU and Legal Aid Bureau, organizations that I’ve long had high regard for. Resorting to performative activism with misleading claims, instead of practicing the restorative principles that they preach by directly contacting Board members for honest and responsible dialogue, is counterproductive to collectively addressing the real concerns that exist.

Larry Scott

Vice President of Student Achievement

Buffalo Board of Education


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