If my gun went off and shot your mother in the head, would that be an accident? That's what a Buffalo school administrator allegedly told a student last week while pointing a gun first at the child's teacher, then his mother. The chilling scene played out at a student suspension hearing Dec. 11, according to a statement filed by the teach er and corroborated by the student and his mother Friday. The teacher was upset enough by the incident to file a complaint with Superintendent James Harris this week, call ing the hearing officer's conduct "totally unwarranted" and asking for an investigation. Harris has agreed to hold a hear ing on the matter.
The incident involved Richard Labin, a supervisor for pupil services who conducts suspension hearings, advises schools on disciplinary matters and handles student assignments. He held the suspension hearing in his City Hall office for Tyrell Rowe, a ninth-grader at McKinley High School who was accused of flinging a metal object that almost struck an other student. Deborah Misztal, a teacher who witnessed Rowe's actions, attended the hearing. In her letter to Harris, she gave this account of Labin's actions after the student told the hearing officer that it was only by accident that one of his school mates was nearly struck by the metal object: "Mr. Labin brandished and pointed a gun at those present at the hearing. "I believe Mr. Labin said the following: "Excuse me a minute. You don't mind if I clean my gun? (At this point the gun was pointed in my direction). And while I clean my gun and it accidentally goes off and shoots your mother in the head, is that an accident? (At this point he had turned the gun toward the student's mother). "I personally felt this presented a very serious and threat ening situation." The student and his mother gave a similar account in an interview Friday. "He pulled out a gun," Rowe said. "I don't know if it was fake or real. And he told me, 'What if I pulled this gun and made a mistake and shot your mother, would that be a mistake?'" See Incident Page A4 Incident: District saying little about the occurance Continued from Page A1 His mother, Bridgette Green, described the weapon as "a big, black gun," which she said Labin pulled out in the middle of the hearing and pointed at her and others in the room. "I was kind of shocked at that behavior," she said. "He was sup posed to be the hearing officer -- the judge -- and for him to do something like that was out of or der." The student was subsequently suspended for five days and trans ferred to Bennett High School. District officials are saying little about the episode. Labin, who earns $75,990 a year, didn't return telephone calls seeking his com ment, and his boss, Yvonne Har grave, assistant superintendent for pupil personnel services, declined to discuss the incident. District spokesman Andrew Maddigan said what is believed to be a BB gun has been confiscated, and a hearing will be scheduled, although he was not sure when be cause of the holidays. "The superintendent has talked with (Labin), and there seems to be some discrepancies in his ac count and the account of the teacher," Maddigan said. The pace of the district's re sponse to the allegations contrasts with the school board's zero-toler ance policy toward students caught with a weapon. The student is im mediately suspended, and police are called and asked to press char ges. Labin remains on the job. "If the allegations are true, I expect the district, after a proper investigation, would take decisive action," said Philip Rumore, presi dent of the Buffalo Teachers Fed eration who has encouraged the district to come down hard on stu dents who bring guns to school or act violently.