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Buffalo school members alleged racially motivated treatment toward student-athletes by Section VI, NYSPHSAA

Board members cite what happened with Bennett High players who could've been exposed in a playoff game to players who had COVID-19 on McQuaid Jesuit High.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Allegations of racism against both Section VI and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association are coming from the Buffalo School Board.

Board members want the claims to be investigated. 

Buffalo School Board members say many of their students-athletes have been disenfranchised.

"It goes to my heart because these kids are innocent, and they put their blood, sweat and tears out on these fields for these games," said board member Terrance Heard, who adds that racially motivated treatment toward student-athletes in the district dates back decades. 

"We always knew in the City of Buffalo that we had to play against the other team, the other opponent, and also the referees when we went up against suburban teams," Heard said.

The president of the Buffalo School Board, Lou Petrucci, has filed a resolution, saying what happened with Bennett High football players last month is an example of this alleged racial discrimination. 

Bennett players could've been exposed in a playoff game to players who had COVID-19 on McQuaid Jesuit High, a school in the Rochester area.  

Bennett High then had to play another playoff game on short rest.

District superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash has expressed his outrage. 

"The lack of good sportsmanship and the lack of teaching a good Jesuit lesson to your team out there was despicable," Cash said.  

Board members also claim Section VI hasn't done enough to file appeals and objections on behalf of the district and want the New York State Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Justice Department to investigate these allegations. 

"This resolution is very important to us, because it's the first step in taking something and writing wrongs that's been happening to our children," Heard said. 

That resolution was voted on during Wednesday night's Buffalo School Board meeting. It passed.

Section VI and the state Public High School Athletic Association have issued a joint statement saying the claims are completely untrue and that both organizations take any allegation of misconduct seriously. 

Both Section VI and the NYSPHSAA have issued a joint statement saying: 

"The NYSPHSAA and Section VI are grateful to WGRZ for alerting us to the Buffalo Public Schools Board of Education Meeting including us on the agenda this evening. Until this communication from you we were unaware (and frankly are very surprised by) the BPS planned to discuss any topics related to the NYSPHSAA. We would encourage the BPS to communicate directly with us in the future when it comes to important issues like this.

The Association is a membership led organization that allows the same opportunities for representation on any and all committees to all member schools regardless of race, financial status or enrollment size. The BPS has had and continues to have equal opportunities to continue to participate on any NYSPHSAA committee that serves the student-athletes of New York State. We welcome members of the BPS community who wish to participate in the representation of student-athletes for not just their school district, but the ten other sections of the state that we serve.

The claims that the BPS has been treated differently based on race, poverty and misconceptions about the district and community are completely baseless, untrue, and wrong. The NYSPHSAA and Section VI considers the BPS, coaches, and athletes as vitally important members of the Section, and it continues to support BPS as we would any other member district in our Section. The Association and Section VI take any allegation of misconduct, regardless of merit, seriously and will work with sections and schools to ensure the bylaws of the NYSPHSAA are followed. 

In consultation with the NYSPHSAA Central/Executive Committee the Association continues to examine diversity issues and this will be a focus in our upcoming strategic plan. Section VI has already created a diversity and equity committee to address this important issue locally. We strongly encourage the BPS to participate in the dialogue on this topic to ensure all student-athletes are treated equally."