Press Pass: Students living in violent parts of Buffalo

Jul 18, 2017

Some Buffalo Public School students live in some of the most violent neighborhoods in the city. Unfortunately students have become innocent victims of stray bullets targeted for others. WBFO Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley talks with Buffalo News education reporter Tiffany Lankes, who for months has been tracking city school children facing with this tragic issue.  

Where city students live

“One of the things from the data we looked at: 40 percent of the students in the Buffalo Public Schools live in the ten most violent neighborhoods, and that is a huge mass of children,” Lankes remarked.

Lankes explained the significance of this problem is how this effects very young children. 

East Side community in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

“Children, who from birth, are living in these communities where they hear gun shots, they see police tape, they know that people are getting killed all around them, and if you think about what that does to the psychology of a young child, it has a tremendous effect on them,” Lankes explained.

Arriving in the classroom

Lankes noted this is a “fairly new area of research” in education circles, but there is now a growing awareness this is an issue among inner city communities and the effects this has on a child when they arrive in a classroom.

“They show up to school and often times it goes unnoticed,” Lankes said. “And they may be afraid or angry or one of their parents has been killed or is in jail and they show up to school and often times it goes unnoticed.”

Emotional toll

What does that mean when a child walks in a classroom?

“They’re not bad kids. They are kids who are suffering and they need support," Lankes said.

Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash, in a recent WBFO News interview, also addressed the violence issue and effects on city school children.

“Of course we are trying to have city-wide initiatives around this. It is not just a school issue. I think schools — kids are safe in school,” Cash stated.

But Cash pointed out it is the communities in which they walk to and from school from their homes or to after school activities that bring danger in their lives.

“Just crossing these gang territories — because the truth is, there are gangs here in Buffalo, and many of our community schools are also located where those largest gangs are because we are trying to reclaim those communities,” declared Cash.

Lankes noted Cash was struck by the high levels of violence in Buffalo since arriving to lead the district two years ago.

The Center for Disease Control numbers indicated 35 percent of higher schoolers in the Buffalo schools have seen someone shot, stabbed or assaulted.

“Dr. Cash said that’s a tremendously high number,” Lankes remarked.

Lankes said Cash told her since he has been in charge of the district “six young people under the age of 18 who have been murdered and there have been 54 other children who have been injured in violence.”

Children witnessing violence

In research for Lankes story, she and Buffalo News Reporter Lou Michel have been talking to children in those violent community from elementary to high school.

“There’s no shortage of kids who are affected by this,” said Lankes.

Lankes said they held a forum at the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT) with 40 to 50 students and asked how many had heard gun shots in their neighborhood. Every single hand went up in response. 

This will be the last Press Pass with Lankes. She is leaving the Buffalo News and has accepted a position with The Education Trust-New York as Communications Director.