U.S. Department of Education to Probe Racial Bias in Buffalo Public Schools Admissions

Mary Pasciak, Buffalo News, March 14, 2014

Federal authorities have decided to investigate an allegation that the Buffalo Public Schools discriminate against nonwhite students, resulting in fewer of them attending schools like City Honors, which require students to meet certain admissions criteria.

The U.S. Department of Education’s New York Office for Civil Rights informed Patricia Elliott-Patton in a letter recently that it plans to investigate. In December, she filed a complaint alleging that the district disproportionately excludes nonwhite students, including her daughter, from criteria-based schools.

In the district as a whole, 22 percent of students are white; at City Honors, 66 percent are white, according to the most recent information available through the state Education Department. Black students account for 53 percent of students throughout the district; at City Honors, they account for 21 percent. Hispanic students constitute 16 percent of the enrollment across the district, but 6 percent of students at City Honors.

Timothy C.J. Blanchard, director of the New York Office for Civil Rights, noted in his letter to Elliott-Patton that “opening the allegation for investigation in no way implies that (the Office for Civil Rights) has made a determination with regard to its merit.”

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In a brief statement released Thursday, Brown noted the district’s long history of criteria-based schools.

“Criteria-based schools have been a part of the Buffalo Public Schools since the early 1970s in direct response to the needs of our community,” she said in the statement. “These schools have long served us well.

“We take this matter very seriously, and we will cooperate with the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to resolve this matter in the best interest of our students and our community.”

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