Radford Reflects on Report Citing High Rate of Black Student Suspensions in Buffalo

A report released this week by the New York Equity Coalition cited Buffalo as suspending students at a higher rate than any of the large big 5 urban districts in New York State – and Black male students in particular . Samuel L. Radford III, president of the District Parent Coordinating Council parent group, said he was not necessarily surprised to know that suspension rates were disproportionate.

After all, he pointed out, the Parent Council sounded the alarm about Black male suspensions before the 2010 death of Jawaan Daniels.

Jawaan was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2010 while suspended from his high school for roaming the hallways, The suspension rate at that time, said Radford, was around 15% .

“Now it’s ridiculous at around 20-22%“ he noted, “and so I was surprised that it was really as bad as it is,” he told the Challenger.

Another shocker, he said, was to learn that although Buffalo suspends students at a higher rate than any of the large urban district schools, of all the school districts period, Niagara Falls is number one with 37% of its African American students suspended from school.

-High Praise for Dr. Cash-

Radford, who has been working to empower parents of public school students for the past 28 years, had high praise for the efforts of Buffalo School Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash. “Dr. Cash has done more than any superintendent to keep the suspension issue in the forefront,” he said.

His core approach, Radford explained, includes on going training programs for teachers, Culturally Linguistic Responsive Teaching, and trying to bring more teachers of color in the system.

He pointed to one school that has been very successful in curtailing its suspension rate. “Principal Ces Owens has a great program at West Hertel,” he noted. “It’s keeping the kids in school and ultimately sending them back into the classroom.”

He said the biggest push back to Dr. Cash’s efforts has been from the Buffalo Teachers Federation union and many teachers in the schools.

“The union won’t partner with Cash to help him….his priority has been reducing suspensions, reducing the number of Black and Brown children referred to special education, increasing attendance, and having the curriculum reflecting the classroom – he’s been doing all that for the last 3 years.

“The bigger issue is that we are in an urban school district and 75% of the kids are Black, Brown and immigrant, but 86 % of the teachers in city schools are White,” and live in the suburbs.