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Plaintiff explains need for potentially millions of public school documents as part of lawsuit

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The woman suing her former employer, the private Elmwood Franklin School, as well as Buffalo Public Schools explained why she needs the latter to comply with a judge's order and release up to three million documents as part of her discrimination case.

Shellonnee Chinn hosted a news conference Thursday, explaining she originally didn't want her concerns to become a lawsuit. But she went on to claim she had been subject to retailiation, wrongful termination and various forms of discrimination while working as the only African-American teacher ever hired at the private Elmwood Franklin School in Buffalo.

Chinn also alleges in her lawsuit that the Buffalo Public School District conspired - "either negligently, intentionally or by corruption" - with Elmwood Franklin School to deny her federally guaranteed rights. She suggests she was wrongfully denied access to money from a federal funding pool overseen by the public school district, money sought for professional development.

"The school district administers up to, I would think, $30 million a year in federal education funds," she said. "They have an oversight and a duty to ensure that the monies for which they have oversight is used properly, and not used in discriminatory manner with the private schools and the parochial schools."

Chinn has also raised concerns about standardized test results, saying students at one of Buffalo's lowest-performing schools performed better than peers within Elmwood Franklin. 

This week, a federal judge ordered Buffalo Public Schools to release up to three million documents including racial, gender and age-based complaints, policy documents and also academic test results for students at two Buffalo public schools - City Honors and Hutchinson Tech high schools.

The district has until August 10 to comply with the judge's order but officials are resisting, arguing the release of the student test results violates the district's obligation to protect student privacy under the federal Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act.

Last February, Elmwood Franklin headmaster Andrew Deyell denied claims of discrimination against Chinn, stating at that time, "There have been numerous African-American teachers in the last 30 years, including an African-American head of school from 2006 to 2012."

Deyell is one of about 30 individuals also named as defendants in Chinn's lawsuit.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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