Criteria for some Buffalo schools being investigated over possible civil rights issues

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Buffalo has 57 public schools, of which only 12 are schools in good standing.  Many of those schools have special requirements for admission and many students are often turned away from the best schools; many of whom are minorities living in the neighborhoods around the schools.  One parent is challenging whether that is a discriminatory practice.

Based on that parent’s complaint, the U.S. Education Department is now launching an investigation, questioning whether “admissions criteria disproportionately excludes non-white students from enrollment in certain criteria-based schools.”

Patricia Elliott-Patton filed a complaint with the Civil Rights Office of the U.S. Education Department. She lives just a few blocks away from the criteria-based Olmsted School on Suffolk, but her 12-year-old daughter Kimberly was denied entry because she did not meet the standards the public school had set to get in.

“My daughter should have had access to this school. It’s in her neighborhood. She lives around here, her sister was going there, and it’s not her fault that she could not meet their criteria,” the mother said.

District Parent Coordinating Council President Sam Radford agrees with Elliott-Patton, “We believe this is as significant as desegregation. We believe this is going to lead to a landmark ruling.  At the end of the day, the criteria-based schools get to chose from the best of everybody else’s students. I mean, it’s just simply not fair. They have an unfair advantage.”

The Buffalo School Superintendent’s Office issued a statement saying “criteria-based schools have long served us well. We take this matter very seriously.”

But Radford says the district appears unwilling to settle the question quickly.  “The federal government will come here and they will investigate. We’re confident that when they investigate they’re going to find that the school district illegally created criteria,” Radford said.

The Superintendent’s Office says the district will cooperate in the investigation.

Elliott-Patton wants all children to have access to the best schools in their area.  She said, “My hope for all the parents is that every child that wants to get into a school in good standing will be able to, and it doesn’t have to be based on their education, their grades.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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