Buffalo Parents Appeal to New York State Over Physical Education Rift

The District Parent Coordinating Council's Health Committee has filed a legal appeal the New York education commissioner asking the state to require the Buffalo School District to provide state-mandated physical and health education.

The school district currently does not comply with the state laws regarding physical and health education, the appeal claims. On October 25th, the council filed an appeal to Commissioner John B. King Jr. regarding the district's noncompliance with state physical education requirements, and plans to file another appeal in November regarding the district's non-compliance with health education requirements, writes Sandra Tan of The Buffalo News.

The appeal by the parent council follows public rallies and requests before the school board to increase compliance with district and state regulations. In the 2013-14 budget, funding was not included for additional gym teachers.

Recently, school board member Jason McCarthy asked Superintendent Pamela Brown to provide a plan by November 20th to bring the district into compliance with state and district health requirements. He filed a resolution, which was referred to committee.

"Clearly, someone needs to provide oversight here," said Jessica Bauer Walker, chairwoman of the District Parent Coordinating Council's Health Committee.

In June, the parent council sent a letter to King to direct Buffalo schools to comply with the law. The council was asked to file a formal, legal appeal to the commissioner.

The parent council wants the commissioner to demand compliance from the district and say a "special master" should be hired who would oversee the creation of a corrective action plan.

"Obviously, there needs to be outside intervention to make sure they actually do this," Walker said. "And perhaps they need guidance on how to make this work, as well."

The Buffalo School District is required to provide physical education instruction daily to children in kindergarten through third grade and provide it three times a week for children in grades four through six. Children are required to get two hours of physical education a week. But the district currently is providing just 30 to 60 minutes of gym class every six days to younger children and two 40- to 45-minute periods of gym every six days to older elementary children.

In addition, the district is required to provide comprehensive, age-appropriate health education for all children. But, according to Walker, the district's health education program is outdated, incomplete and often not provided at the elementary level.

In response to the parent council's concerns, the district issued a statement saying: "We are taking the complaint very seriously. Our school board has a new health and wellness policy that emphasizes the importance of good nutrition and regular physical activity, so we have increased student access to both this school year. We are continuing to review this matter to ensure our district's compliance with physical education regulations and policies."

According to Walker, this is an affront to parents, considering that the district was able to come up with the money to add $1.6 million in new payroll costs to the central administration staff.

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