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Buffalo school officials Tuesday night promised to take a series of steps to combat school violence but stressed that they are designed to help disruptive students and not punish them.

Most immediately, students who commit violent acts -- as defined by the penal law -- will be assigned to one of two existing opportunity centers, where they will receive counseling and anger-management instruction and attend small academic classes, said Diane Collier, associate superintendent for student support services.

"They could be there anywhere from 10 weeks to 20 weeks to 30 weeks" before returning to traditional city schools, Collier told the Board of Education's student achievement committee. "Once students get to the centers, we view it as an opportunity and not punishment."

The measures outlined by Collier are in response to several recent incidents of students assaulting teachers in city schools. Violent students are often suspended and then returned to their previous schools without any behavior modification, according to teachers and many school officials.

Collier said the anti-violence initiative also includes:

Programs to combat gang activity.

The establishment of "emergency response teams" in every city school.

An evaluation of how to prevent trouble in school cafeterias and auditoriums and other areas where large numbers of students congregate.

Use of parents trained "to be a presence in the buildings."

Consistent enforcement of rules within individual schools and efforts to make sure they are uniformly enforced and understood from classroom to classroom.

Staff training on how to deal with potentially dangerous situations.

"We want to remind the community that safety is the No. 1 priority for us," Collier said. Her comments were made during a presentation to the board on programs now in existence to help troubled students and ensure safe schools.

The discussion did not address the reasons for what the Buffalo Teachers Federation calls a recent upswing in violence and did not directly answer the union's call for the re-establishment of a network of alternative schools.

Collier said there are ways to temporarily remove students from schools where they cause trouble, but state law prevents such transfers as punishment resulting from a suspension.


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