Paladino: Make Buffalo Parents Responsible for Absenteeism


A member of the Buffalo, New York School Board proposed that parents responsible for their children’s chronic absenteeism should have charges filed against them.

Carl Paladino recommends that the district get more proactive about attendance even if it means “going after” parents who fail to ensure their children attend school regularly, writes Jay Rey of The Buffalo News. In severe cases, where parents are the cause of their children’s absenteeism, he suggests that charges should be filed with the Buffalo police or the Child Protective Services. His proposal was on the Wednesday board meeting agenda.

“We have to do whatever we have to do,” Paladino said. “If a parent is being neglectful of a child and it’s a chronic thing, then the parents should be taught a lesson. It’s a violation of the law to neglect your child. These children are being denied an education because of the behavior of their parents.”

The resolution comes after a two-part Buffalo News series that discovered that almost half of Buffalo Public Schools students missed more than 18 days last year. One out of six students across the district missed over 20% of the school year, and the problem is worse in the city’s high schools where one-third of the students enrolled missed a minimum of 20% of the school year.

Paladino’s solution was unacceptable to Samuel L. Radford III, president of the District Parent Coordinating Council.

“It’s a distraction, it’s insulting and it doesn’t solve the problem,” Radford said of charging parents. “We don’t need statements that are inflammatory, that don’t have any substance and don’t solve the problem.”

Paladino’s resolutions are often not passed and are frequently not even seconded. He says it is not always the passing of the resolution that is important, but it is the message he is trying to send out to the public concerning the district’s poor decisions. He also believes that creating a discussion among board members is an another important reason for his “attention-grabbing” resolutions.

The proposal also addresses how the district keeps track of attendance. The Buffalo News series pointed out that the absentee numbers may be even higher than the numbers reported by the district because students are automatically classified as present if a teacher fails to actually take attendance.

Changing the process may also reveal why children are chronically absent so that actions can be taken to remedy the problem. First the correct statistics need to be attained.

In Los Angeles, a family can be taken to court and students can be fined or required to perform community service for missing too many days of school.

WKBW-TV Buffalo’s Justin Moore reports that James Payne of Citizen Action agrees that there are myriad reasons why kids are not coming to school, but disagrees with Paladino’s idea. Radford believes that the problem is the fact that the district does not have neighborhood schools. Many Buffalo students must be bused outside their communities to attend school.

Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash shared the obvious with Katie Alexander of WIVB-TV by reminding everyone in or associated with the education community that children cannot learn what is being taught if they are not in the classroom to learn it.

Radford mentioned transportation again by explaining to WGRZ-TV that some students have a problem getting to school because their parents do not have vehicles.

Radford said, “If you miss the bus in the morning, the reality is you’re not going to school, because your school is on the other side of town.”

Board member-at-large Lawrence Quinn made a suggestion to improve inaccurate roll-taking; by using a fingerprint ID system:

“Don’t rely on somebody with a piece of paper. Put that finger on a reader when you go to class, then you’ll know who’s there. If you have great reporting than you can immediately tell who’s at-risk.”