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New tool kit helps in appeal process for students facing suspension

Sam White of the Western New York Law Center
Thomas O'Neil-White
Sam White of the Western New York Law Center

A new tool kit for parents and caregivers of Buffalo Public School students will help them navigate the suspension process.

The tool kit was developed by Columbia University Law School and Western New York Law Center.

Many parents and caregivers may not understand how to fill out a letter of appeal with regard to state law.

Attorney Sam White from the Western New York Law Center said the tool kit can help with that.

“For the past four months we've been collaborating to develop a tool that could assist families in writing their appeals,” she said.

Through April 18th over 7,000 students in the Buffalo Public School district have been suspended during the school year.

In the district, Black students are over two times more likely to be suspended than white students and students with learning disabilities were suspended at an even greater rate.

“One thing that we found is there are a number of students who are going through a suspension process that is lacking all of the proper due process, proper notification, description of charges, even the opportunity to appear during the hearing,” she said. “If they don't receive their notification that a hearing is going to occur, they may not know that they can attend it. But more importantly with the short-term suspensions, families typically get one piece of paper and it does not explain that they have the right to appeal at all.”

One of Columbia Law’s suggested recommendations is notification of a right to appeal should appear on multiple suspension documents.

“That way, in the event of a short-term suspension, families know that there is an opportunity to have an informal conference, to question witnesses and even to appeal,” White said.

The tool kit is available May 1st through Western New York Law Center website.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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