NY Attorney General receives complaint over suspensions in Buffalo Public Schools

Feb 7, 2020

The Office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James has notified Buffalo Public Schools that it received a complaint about the district’s disproportionate suspensions of non-white students, WBFO confirmed Friday.

A spokesperson for Buffalo Public Schools provided the following written statement to WBFO:

"The District received a letter from the Office of the New York State Attorney General. A response has been sent by the District to resolve any specific concerns as quickly as possible in the best interests of our students and families. The District looks forward to a constructive dialogue with the Attorney General’s office regarding the transformative work happening in Buffalo that is designed to reduce and eliminate historical injustices that have affected our children."

An individual affiliated with the district who is aware of the letter, but has not seen it, said the anonymous complaint relates to the disproportionate suspensions of African American and Latinx students.

A 2018 report by The New York Equity Coalition, with data analysis by The Education Trust—New York, found that Buffalo had the highest overall suspension rate and highest suspension rate for Black students of the state’s “Big 4” urban districts, which include Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers. Last week, the district told WBFO its suspension numbers have gone down since then.

On Friday, the district spokesperson said the complaint is without merit.

From September to December 2019, Buffalo gave out a total of 3,518 suspensions, including repeat offenders, according to district data. That’s about 100 fewer than in the same period in 2018.

Together, Black and Hispanic students represent about 66% of Buffalo’s student body, but WBFO’s analysis shows they represent 85% of long-term suspensions and 84% of short-term suspensions through December of this school year.

The Attorney General’s office confirmed it is aware of the situation but did not issue further comment.

This article was updated on Feb. 7 to clarify the timeline of when a Buffalo Public Schools spokesperson told WBFO its suspension numbers have gone down.