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OFFICIAL SUSPENDED AFTER ALLEGED GUN INCIDENT

A Buffalo school administrator accused of pointing what turned out to be a pellet gun at a student's mother and teacher to make a point during a recent suspension hearing is being suspended himself.

Superintendent James Harris placed Richard Labin, who makes $75,990 a year as a supervisor for pupil services, on paid administrative leave as of today.

"The administrative leave will be for an indefinite period of time," said spokesman Andrew Maddigan. "We need to determine what course of action we will take."

Labin's time off comes as the result of a formal complaint made to Harris by the boy's teacher -- corroborated by the boy and his mother -- about Labin's conduct during the Dec. 11 hearing.

The student, Tyrell Rowe, then a ninth-grader at McKinley High School, claimed during the hearing that his nearly hitting a classmate with a metal object was an accident.

Labin then pulled out what Rowe's mother described as a "big, black gun," and according to teacher Deborah Misztal, pointed it toward those present.

"Excuse me a minute," said Labin, according to the teacher's written complaint. "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)."

Harris will convene a fact-finding session, the school spokesman said, and determine whether there are grounds to ask the Board of Education to bring formal charges against Labin under the state education law.

John C. Doyle, an at-large member of the School Board and its leading proponent of zero tolerance for students caught with weapons, said he understands the suspension hearing did not go exactly as the teacher and student's mother claimed.

Doyle said a tape of the proceedings will show whether or not what is alleged actually happened.

"It's all on audiotape," Doyle said.

Doyle also said he feels he has no conflict if he has to make a decision on pressing charges in the case, despite a relationship his sister has with Labin.

Real estate records show Doyle's sister Susan, principal at Buffalo Traditional High School, bought a house with Labin in Orchard Park last year.

"I don't step out of anything," said Doyle, when asked Monday if he had a conflict. "I think they bought the house as an investment. She still is residing with my mother. They've been seeing each other for some time."

Labin could not be reached to comment Monday and did not return phone calls previously.

Anthony Palano, a principal who is president of the union representing Buffalo school administrators and principals, said he also understands that Labin does not agree with the account of his actions given by the other side.

"I think this was kind of blown out of proportion," Palano said. "I'm sure that once the superintendent completes his investigation, he will make a decision that is fair."

Maddigan said that while the district immediately suspends students caught with weapons, there is no formal, written policy on how to deal with administrators who have weapons. He also said state law mandates the district to give teachers and administrators due process.

"This is going to be formal," he said of Harris' fact-finding mission. "Both sides will be represented by counsel."

District administrators confiscated the gun from Labin -- it was a BB pistol -- but Maddigan said it is not known why Labin had the weapon in his office.

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