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The Amherst Central Schools, responding to local concerns following the Columbine tragedy, will hold a community forum on "Violence in Schools" at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 in the Amherst Middle School auditorium, 55 Kings Highway.

School officials said the forum will be held in conjunction with the district's regular School Board meeting, although agenda items involving any other business will be brief.

Teachers, parents, middle and high school students, and other members of the community are expected to participate in the forum, according to Paul T. Wietig, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. He said 60 people have expressed an interest in sharing their views.

The event will begin with an overview of the topic by Dr. Charles P. Ewing, forensic psychologist and University at Buffalo Law School professor. A public dialogue will follow.

Joseph A. Podgorski, principal of Amherst Central High School; David Ulrich, president of the Amherst teachers union; and Mary M. Egan, a member of the School Board, will be the facilitators.

Wietig said the district "wants to be proactive rather than reactive" about school violence.

He said the School Board wants to know how the community at large views the situation and "what is needed or necessary." He said the forum is not designed as a policy-making event, but the district will ask for volunteers to serve on a subcommittee dealing with school violence issues.

The group then would share its conclusions with the board or perhaps a subcommittee of the board, Wietig said, adding that the board will respond to any recommendations.

After the Columbine shootings, the district office was inundated with telephone calls and other communications from parents and members of the community anxious to prevent a similar tragedy in the Amherst schools.

There were suggestions, recommendations and even demands from people regarding the use of metal detectors, video cameras and security guards. Some wanted to mandate school uniforms or ban certain types of clothing and jewelry.

The community forum, which was proposed last spring, was considered the best way of addressing those issues.

However, Wietig said it would be premature to say which of the suggestions would be a matter of discussion at the forum.

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