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E-MAIL STIRS DEBATE OVER BAD BEHAVIOR

A member of the Tonawanda City School Board hopes to begin cracking down on students and staff who act in an "inappropriate" manner.

Board Vice President Anthony Melchiorre specifically referred to an Oct. 29 football game between Tonawanda and Lackawanna where tensions ran high between the teams and their fans. Several racial slurs were reportly yelled by players and fans on both sides.

The Lackawanna School Board took the Tonawanda district to task after the game, filing a protest with Section VI of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association over "unsportsmanlike behavior" by the Tonawanda High School football team.

The issue, briefly discussed by the Tonawanda School Board in November, didn't come up again until a copy of an e-mail that Melchiorre sent to board members ended up in the hands of the audience members at Tuesday's board meeting.

According to the e-mail, read by resident Dennis Smilinich, Melchiorre wrote, "This is not just a school issue, it's a community issue."

The e-mail also reportedly said Police and Fire Department officials contribute to the negativity. Smilinich didn't reveal where he got the e-mail.

"This is a sick issue" to make a blanket statement about the community, Smilinich said.

Several residents, who said they attended the game, said the Lackawanna fans and team were just as responsible for the inappropriate comments as Tonawanda may have been.

"It takes two to tango," one resident said. "I talked to the other schools, and they don't even want to play Lackawanna anymore."

One resident, who declined to give his name, said everyone seems to be coming down on Tonawanda when both sides were involved.

Melchiorre told the audience his information came from a Tonawanda parent who observed the behavior on the Lackawanna side, where several of the audience members at the board meeting said they were sitting but denied indulging in bad behavior.

Melchiorre said he would not apologize for the e-mail.

Melchiorre later said the board is dealing with the issue of what is acceptable behavior by Tonawanda students and staff.

He said he sent the e-mail only to board members and used the game as an example of behavior that needs to be changed in the schools.

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