Buffalo Common Council’s New Approach: Transforming Student Discipline to Invest in Future Success

Buffalo Common Council's New Approach: Transforming Student Discipline to Invest in Future Success | Future Education Magazine


Buffalo, N.Y. – In a move to redefine the approach to student discipline, Buffalo Common Council’s Education Committee, under the leadership of Chair Zeneta Everhart, convened on Tuesday to discuss comprehensive plans aimed at eliminating school suspensions.

Under the new leadership, the committee has initiated monthly evening meetings, signaling a departure from traditional practices. The focus of the first meeting of the year was a critical examination of school suspensions and strategies to eradicate them.

Buffalo Common Council Member Everhart emphasized her commitment to ensuring that students, even when facing disciplinary actions, continue to receive an education. She expressed concern that removing students from the educational environment might exacerbate issues rather than resolve them.

Advocacy for Addressing Underlying Issues in Student Behavior

A high school student attending the meeting echoed this sentiment, stating, “Taking them out of school is not going to help them. It’s only just pushing the problem away.”

Dina Thompson, Executive Director of the Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, emphasized the importance of addressing underlying issues leading to behavioral problems. “How are we eliminating suspensions and how are we looking at underlying issues that are causing behavior, thereby resourcing for them and addressing no suspensions,” she questioned.

In response to these concerns, Everhart outlined her innovative plan to replace traditional suspensions with a more constructive and supportive alternative. Instead of sending students home, they would report to designated locations such as school buildings, after-school programs, community centers, or libraries. There, they would be paired with organizations offering assistance with homework and skill-building activities.

To implement this plan, Everhart collaborated with Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Tonja Williams and various community groups to create a pilot program for suspended students.

Transformative Initiatives for Student Success

One of the initiatives highlighted during the discussion involved teaching students agricultural skills by growing their food. Dwight Lowe from Home Beneath Our Feet emphasized, “We are teaching our students, our youth, how to grow their food, and through growing their food, they learn a personal development skill through agriculture.”

David Rust, CEO of Say Yes to Education, presented data supporting the effectiveness of alternative programs. “Evening activities, the Saturday academies, we measure that. We worked with the district to build a data system, and we know that if one student came three times, their academic scores go up, school attendance goes up, and discipline referrals drop,” he explained.

Everhart concluded the meeting by stressing the need for continued investment in children. She remarked, “We need to keep investing because if we’re not investing in our children today, we will be investing in them when they’re in our prison system, and that’s for sure.”

The Buffalo Common Council’s progressive approach seeks to transform student discipline from a punitive measure to an investment in the future success of each student.

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