BUFFALO, N.Y. — Many parents in the Buffalo Public Schools District say they are outraged and are demanding answers from district leaders as to why they just recently found out that their kids won't be graduating Wednesday at school No. 89.
In less than 24 hours, eighth graders at Dr. Lydia T. Wright School will be walking across the stage to get their diplomas - well, not everyone.
During an emergency press conference held outside the school on Tuesday, parents and parent advocates gathered to announce that out of 65 students, initially only eight were told they would be moving on to the ninth grade. After some pushing and digging, advocates now say 17 will be moving up.
Aymanuel Radford works with 'We The Parents' and says he has been frustrated for a long time with the way in which the district operates, especially considering the impact COVID-19 had on students.
"We were the last school district to come back to school, we have a huge busing problem where to this day, at the end of the school year, students are not being picked up and are being dropped off late," Radford expressed.
Not to mention, there's still a staffing shortage as well as ongoing complaints about transparency, communication, and accessibility.
And then, there's the suspension problem.
"At Dr. Lydia T. Wright, the highest suspended grade level is eighth grade. They suspend 35% of the eighth graders, it's only 65 students and they suspend 35% of the eighth graders," Radford said.
It's a big reason why so few students are graduating and yet so many are falling behind, he said.
Radford tells 2 On Your Side's Liz Lewin, "By law, if a student is suspended, it's on the school to provide education and to provide work for that student to stay on task, to be able to come back to school and to be able to integrate properly - this school provided none."
Neither Lakiesha Seales nor Michelle Robinson's sons will be graduating with their class on Wednesday - and neither mom is happy about it.
"When he wasn't focusing, why didn't somebody say, 'hey we've given Jacob many times to complete this math work, he's not doing it, let's see if there's something going on with him, or 'let's talk to him,'" Seales said. "One teacher, I heard from one teacher."
Robinson echoed similar sentiments.
"I feel like the school failed him," she said. "They say they kept giving us information after information when the kids weren't doing well - we got nothing. If I had not come to a parent-teacher conference I would have known nothing."
Radford and others are calling on interim superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams and the Board of Education to:
- Let students participate in the graduation experience on Wednesday and help them work towards completing the necessary course work after the ceremony and
- Look into why the suspension rate at school No. 89 is over 35% for eighth graders.
2 On Your Side reached out to the district for a response, who released the following statement: