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City school district must respond to Office of Civil Rights by Friday

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

The Buffalo Public School District must answer more than 50 questions regarding the admission process for its criteria-based schools. The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (ORC) issued a letter to Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash dated October 15, 2015.

The city district responded to the Department after its first plan was rejected. But now the federal agency wants 53 questions answered by this Friday. 

Credit WBFO News file photo
Buffalo Board of Education.

This revolves around a civil suit filed with the OCR complaining about what some parents feel are discriminatory selection practices for admission to some of the city's top schools like City Honors and Olmsted.

This is the second rejection of the Buffalo Schools plan to resolve the civil rights violation. In July of 2014, the OCR informed the district it had discriminated on the "bases of race and national origin" by using admissions criteria that disproportionately excluded non-white students from enrollment into the district criteria based schools 

The district was required to submit a plan by August 15, which was rejected. It resubmitted another plan in September and that was also rejected. Now it must submit a new plan by Friday, October 30.

Parent District Coordinating Council President Sam Radford wants new intervention.

"In light of the ongoing failure of the Buffalo Public Schools to advance an acceptable plan to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights that would bring the district into compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, parents of Buffalo school students are now calling on Dr. John B. King, Acting Secretary, U.S. Department of Education to immediately intervene with the appointment of a Special Master to take control of the district’s failing efforts to comply with its’ admitted violations of federal law," said Radford.

The city school district has posted itsdraft response on its website.  Superintendent Cash said they're in the process of responding and promises to hire appoint someone to oversee the criteria system by November 18th.

Associate Superintendent Will Keresztes tells WBFO News as Dr. Cash has stated repeatedly there will be 'an ongoing' dialog.  "I think the questions from OCR are good questions. I think they are the natural result of a complex issue that has a plan that is over 40-pages long," stated Keresztes. 

Now some have suggested creating a second City Honors school to accommodate more students, but Keresztes tells WBFO that criteria school is not 'as in demand' as other schools.

"It's seventh, it's no where near first. McKinley High School, Emerson, other very popular schools are miles ahead of City Honors as far as demand on parents and students, in fact, in our document you'll see data that says City Honors is the seventh most-in demand high school among not only public school children, but children at charters and non-public," said Keresztes.

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