Buffalo parent leaders held a press conference at McKinley High School Monday to address what they feel has been a one-sided portrayal of the recent student-teacher confrontation at the school on January 3.
The altercation over a cell phone, they said, has received a lot of media attention, but that attention has been slanted in favor of the teacher and against the student.
Duncan Kirkwood, one of the spokespersons for the District Parent Coordinating Council (DPCC), told the Challenger the goals of the press conference were to let the community know that even though the boy may have been wrong in the situation ( “he should have never put his hands on a teacher,” noted Kirkwood) the teacher, he continued, “had a role in failing to de-escalate the situation. …”
“Teachers in Buffalo Public Schools have been trained in trauma-informed care, culturally responsive learning and restorative justice practices,” he said. “ We didn’t see any of those tools being used in this incident.”
“Secondly we as a community need to be focused on solutions, not attacking each other in the media. In no way does that benefit our children.
We have to continue the hard work of working together to find more answers to challenging problems so our children can succeed. “
The 14 year old McKinley High student was arrested and charged with assault. The teacher was placed on administrative leave .
DPCC representative Sam Radford called the incident a classic example of how the “school to prison pipeline works… There was a district policy in place on how to handle the situation,” he said, “but it was not followed.” The student he noted, “is 100 pounds soak and wet” while the teacher, who coaches football, was much bigger. The student was arrested for assault and charged with a felony… “All this over a cell phone!”
The parent leaders also criticized what they see as a flagrant mischaracterization of the Black boys who attend McKinley, as well the school leadership.
“All of the media coverage around this event created a narrative that ever since the new principal has took over McKinley, the students are out of control. But media stories failed to mention that McKinley has the highest graduation rates for Black boys of all the schools that are not criterion based in the city – 87 percent – and one of the highest in the entire state because of the leadership of Principal Marck Abraham,”said Kirkwood.”We want the progress talked about, and more importantly we want to work toward solutions for our kids.”
Those media images “are just a snapshot – not the big, more encouraging and positive picture – any fact checking will find that to be true added Radford. The former principal Crystal Barton “did a good job” he acknowledged. “Abraham has built on that foundation.
Radford also pointed to the “cultural disconnect” – most of the teaches are White and from the suburbs and the majority of the kids are Black from the city. It’s no secret, he said, that “there needs to be more teachers of color.”
Despite that, he continued, “we as parents want to stay on the right track for our children…that means everyone has to come to the table – teachers, parents, unions, teachers– and work together.”
Buffalo Public Schools released a statement on behalf of Superintendent Kriner Cash who expressed “100% confidence in the current principal, and we commend the progress being made in all areas under his leadership.