The Buffalo School District continues to be out of compliance with state laws regarding physical and health education for students despite repeated pleas by parent activists and alarming numbers of city students in poor health.
That is why some parents are now filing a legal appeal to the state education commissioner, asking that the state demand compliance.
“Clearly, someone needs to provide oversight here,” said Jessica Bauer Walker, chairwoman of the District Parent Coordinating Council’s Health Committee.
School Board member Jason McCarthy this week also submitted a resolution requiring Superintendent Pamela Brown to provide a plan by Nov. 20 to bring the district into compliance with state and district health requirements. His resolution was referred to committee.
The parent council had written a letter to Commissioner John B. King Jr. in June, asking the state to require Buffalo to provide state-mandated physical and health education. The state response was that parents should file a formal, legal appeal to the commissioner.
The council announced it was filing the appeal Friday regarding the district’s noncompliance with state physical education requirements, and hopes to file another appeal next week regarding the district’s non-compliance with health education requirements.
The parent council not only wants the commissioner to demand compliance from the district, but also wants him to hire a “special master” 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 district is supposed 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. In both cases, children are supposed to get two hours of physical education a week.
Instead, younger children are only getting 30 to 60 minutes of gym class every six days, and older elementary children are getting only two 40- to 45-minute periods of gym every six days, Walker said.
That’s not in keeping with state law or with the district’s policy.
Meanwhile, the district also is supposed to provide comprehensive, age-appropriate health education for all children. But Walker said the district’s health education program is outdated, incomplete and often not provided at the elementary level.
In response, 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.”
The appeal by the parent council follows public rallies and requests before the School Board to increase compliance with district and state regulations. The 2013-14 budget included no funding for additional gym teachers.
Walker said 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.
Brown has previously stated that the district was going to find ways to have classroom teachers provide some physical education instruction to elementary students.
But Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore said that’s not allowed under the contract and is the subject of an ongoing grievance.
For the full appeal and a breakdown of compliance issues, visit the School Zone blog at BuffaloNews.com/schoolzone