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Protesters bemoan music cuts, health programs in city schools

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Mike Desmond/WBFO News
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Buffalo schools were criticized yesterday for making cuts in the instrumental music program and for not improving its physical education and sex education programs. The protest outside City Hall focused on music cuts, laying off seven teachers and ending programs in 14 schools, along with cuts in four others. 

Schools Superintendent Pamela Brown says vocal music is being left alone and might be increased. She says principals in buildings decided to cut music to spend more money on other standardized test courses.

International School 45 band director Amy Steiner says music helps with students who don't speak English.

"They can't speak a word of English but because music is the universal language, I have learned to teach them how to play an instrument. The music notes are a universal language. It's an amazing experience that they can play their instruments and we can hardly speak to each other. It's a lot of fun," Steiner says.

Steiner says her program is being closed. She says she will move somewhere else and probably bump a teacher with less seniority.

The protest about music ran so long it overlapped a protest over recess and sex education. A group called Leave Our Legacy is pushing the board to install a more extensive sex ed course. D'Youville College student Kevin Sepulveda says kids need more than the traditional and inaccurate playground rumors.

"We're trying to basically just tell them that there are children out there who are ill-informed and as a whole the community needs to be educated on sexual health. It's missing from the curriculum and it should be put into the curriculum and enforced just like any other subject," Sepulveda says.

School officials say around 200 students became pregnant last year, although the figures are incomplete. There is said to be a rapid rise in sexually transmitted disease among high school-age students.

Superintendent Pamela Brown told the later board meeting there will be a sex education curriculum by fall and the youngest students will have their class schedules rearranged so they will have the mandated 30 minutes of exercise every six days of class.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.