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TEACHERS CALL FOR ACTION TO TACKLE RISING VIOLENCE

Violent incidents are on the rise in Buffalo Public Schools, and quick action is needed to restore a sense of safety and calm, the Buffalo Teachers Federation said Friday.

"We're seeing the beginnings of something that needs to be nipped in the bud -- and now," said Philip Rumore, BTF president.

These recent incidents have captured the attention of teachers and students:

On Friday, eight to 10 boys were arrested for fighting in the cafeteria of Grover Cleveland High School. Several of them had recently returned to school from suspensions.

Later Friday afternoon, Buffalo police confiscated a pellet rifle and pistol from a 13-year-old boy who allegedly shot two girls and a boy with pellets and darts outside Hutchinson-Central Technical High School this week.

The suspect, a student at another school, allegedly used the weapons to fire on the students from a Georgia Street apartment window, just across the street from Hutch-Tech.

Two of the victims were taken to the hospital. The male victim, who was shot Thursday, was kept overnight at Women and Children's Hospital after undergoing surgery to have a pellet removed from the back of his neck.

Earlier this month, an English teacher at Lafayette High School was hurt when she attempted to break up a fight.

The next day, another Lafayette teacher suffered head wounds when he tried to stop a fight between two girls, was thrown to the floor and hit with a trash can. One of the girls involved in the fight had returned from a suspension just hours before the incident. The earlier suspension was imposed after she was caught with a knife at a district football game.

William Jackson, the school district's security chief, said officers are doing a good job of preventing trouble and quelling incidents when they occur. But he said suspended students simply return to class when their suspensions are over, without receiving any counseling or advisement.

"We need a better system of dealing with kids we bring in after they commit violent acts," Jackson said. "The system we have now isn't working. It's broken. If there are no consequences for bad behavior, you could put a thousand officers in the schools and it wouldn't make any difference."

Statistics were not immediately available on the number of outbreaks of violence or arrests so far this school year.

Neither interim Buffalo Superintendent Yvonne Hargrave nor Andy Maddigan, a district spokesman, could be reached to comment Friday.

The BTF Council of Delegates this week called for the reinstatement of alternative schools, where disruptive and violent students get individual or small-group assistance and instruction until they are considered ready to get along in traditional school settings.

A once-extensive network of alternative schools has been largely gutted in recent years, due to budget cuts. In addition, Rumore said the BTF was told by district officials that Buffalo Alternative School, formerly located on Oak Street, was closed because it was about to be placed under state review for low test scores.

The Council of Delegates, which includes teachers from all city schools, also urged a review of district policies on the suspension and readmittance of "violent and habitually disruptive students," and the creation of a joint district-BTF task force to make recommendations on improving school safety.

"It's the very small percentage of students causing 99 percent of the trouble," Rumore said. "We need to get them out of the schools and somewhere they can get the help they need."

He said the district's security team is "doing a great job" in the schools, but that the school system is not dealing with the anger and emotional problems of violent students once they have been arrested or suspended.

"Most Buffalo students desire an education and want a safe environment in which to learn," the BTF resolution said. "The recent acts of violence and disruption cannot and will not be tolerated."

e-mail: psimon@buffnews.com

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