School violence needs action, board says

Aug 4, 2016

A workshop on school violence provided Buffalo School members a forum to share their perspectives on the issue. Despite their differences, all agreed that something needs to be done.

A Wednesday workshop brought school board members together to examine violence in city schools.
Credit Mike Desmond/WBFO

School Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold called for the workshop meeting Wednesday night to talk about the Code of Conduct, which turned into a wide-ranging discussion.

'I'm not really talking about the Code of Conduct," said board member Theresa Harris-Tigg.

"I'm talking about where the kids in our school system get an opportunity to talk about their experiences, their interactions with law enforcement outside of school and inside."

Fellow board member Larry Quinn echoed those sentiments, saying that he has spoken with students concerned about violence.

"We have violence, terrible violence and out-of-control behavior in our schools and it starts at a very young age," said Carl Paladino, who asserted that school principals have been encouraged to downplay problems in their buildings.

"They didn't suspend kids anymore and the instruction given to them is 'don't show anybody the violence that we have going on.' You can't keep that a secret. The parents know. The world knows," said Paladino.

While Paladino has often been at odds with many board members, there seems to be near agreement that problems do exist. Sharon Belton Cottman says there are "about seven gang zones" at Bennett.

"I also know that as a result of working with the police, we have police strategically placed throughout the zone, every morning or whatever. However, we can't fix all the problems, Belton Cottman says. "What we can do, however, is calm our piece of the pie."

New district Police Chief Aaron Young is very familiar with the problems at Bennett, where he also serves as a football coach.

Board Member Patty Pierce is an investigator with the District Attorney's office. She says her office has adopted the district's alternative school and is starting meetings with the students to help them deal with problems, promising to stay with them until graduation.