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Buffalo Parents Claim Racial Discrimination

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Buffalo's District-Parent Coordinating Council wanted to send a strong message to both schools and parents today.

"There has been racial discriminatory practices going on in the Buffalo public school system forever, and it's time that it stops," said DPCC Vice-President Bryon McIntyre.

The Buffalo District last month agreed to review its admission process at its eight criteria-based schools as a result of complaints filed to the US Education Department's Office of Civil Rights. The criteria-based schools include perennial top performers City Honors, Olmstead 64, 156, and the Academy for Visual and Performing Arts.

The complaints were filed by three mothers including Patricia Elliott-Patton, whose daughter was unable to get in to the same school as her sister. "I wanted her to get in to this school in my neighborhood that my other daughter already goes to," Patton said. "This is why I filed my complaint, because there is a disproportionate number of White students as opposed to African-American students or other non-White students in that school."
It's been less than a week since a new Interim Superintendent was named for Buffalo schools, but already some parents are seeing a difference.

"This Superintendent and this School Board has included us right from the beginning, asking for parent input," said DPCC President Sam Radford.

In the past, the DPCC has had problems with school administration - going as far as filing an appeal with State Education because they felt they weren't being included in key decisions.

"We've already seen a change based on the new administration," Radford said. "We're cautiously optimistic. They're saying the right things, but there's a lot of work to do, and we're looking for them to do the right things."

"When you look at how this plays out racially, in a school district where 19% of the students are White, and the rest of the students are non-White, you have at the top schools, at City Honors 66% of the students are white in a school district where 19% of students are white," said DPCC President Sam Radford. "That can not just be by chance."

"How much simpler can it be?" asked McIntyre. "If we have a district with less than 40% Caucasians, but when you go to the higher-ranking schools there's more than 50% Caucasians there."

The Federal Government agreed with the complaints. The district now must perform a review of their admissions process, and will decide on actions it will take to change them in March.

"I think there needs to be an independent review of all of our children's capabilities to see if indeed they are eligible to be in these schools," said Carolette Meadows. Meadows said her daughter tried three separate times to get in to the Olmstead school but was denied, even though she is currently on a scholarship and performing at a high level at a private school.

"It makes no sense to me that my daughter can be at an elite private school and perform, but she can't get in to one of those public schools," Meadows said.

Meadows thinks that one of the things preventing her child from attending a school in good standing is suburban children, whose parents pay for them to have a seat in certain schools. "Out of district parents can pay for their kids seats, and that's a sin. These kids already have an advantage, a socio-economic advantage and an educational advantage being where they are. Then they come in to the city and take something that our kids could benefit from."

The DPCC group seemed concerned with how the city's momentum could play in to racial discrimination. "I'm seeing White women at the bus stop with baby strollers, I'm seeing White women in the corner stores," said Patton. "I'm not racist, but what I'm saying is that people are moving back in to our community, and they're going to take advantage, and they're going to move in, and they're going to do what they need to do to ensure their children get what their children need."

The district will have until the end of February to decide on which recommendation from a hired consultant they will implement to change admissions to criteria-based schools.

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