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2 students caught with guns in city, rural schools

Twice in as many days, school administrators were forced to deal with the discovery of a gun brought into an area high school by a student.

The latest incident occurred Friday when a Riverside Institute of Technology student was arrested after police found a loaded gun in his locker.

A teacher's aide noticed Friday morning a student going back and forth from his classroom to his basement locker several times in a row, a teacher said. The aide notified security officers, who found a loaded gun in the locker.

The 16-year-old student is repeating his freshman year at Riverside, the teacher said.

After the student's arrest, three fights broke out in the school. A teacher was bitten when he tried to break up one of the fights, between two male students.

The Riverside incident occurred a day after Cattaraugus County sheriff's officials charged a 15-year-old student with weapons possession after he allegedly brought a loaded .40-caliber handgun to Pioneer High School.

The boy's identity also was withheld because of his age. Authorities said a school resource officer was alerted about the gun. He checked the boy, discovered the weapon in his waistband and the student was arrested.

At Riverside, teachers who requested anonymity said they think discipline in the school has gotten lax in the past year or so.

"All the administrators at our school are not tenured. They are afraid to do anything," one teacher said. "We have no detention anymore. Really, there are students roaming the halls everywhere. Students are allowed to come late to class. There might be 40 students in the hallway. In my opinion, if you let the little things get out of control, then the big things happen."

This is the second time in eight months that a Riverside student has been charged with bringing a loaded gun to school. On Feb. 1, Lamont Cooper, then 18, was arrested on multiple counts of criminal possession of a weapon after a school district security worker found a gun in his locker.

Amber Dixon, interim superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools, said the district is committed to maintaining student safety but pointed out its jurisdiction is limited.

"While it is the duty of every adult in our schools to ensure a safe environment within our buildings, we cannot control activities that take place in the community, especially those related to illegal activities," Dixon said.

"We will continue to do whatever it takes to provide the safe and orderly environment that enables learning to take place in our schools."

The district came under fire for the high suspension rates more than a year ago, after a Lafayette High School student was suspended in the middle of the day, then was shot and killed at a West Side bus stop during school hours.

Since then, district officials have been urging principals to work with parents to resolve underlying discipline issues for lesser offenses, rather than suspending students.

In 2010, 75 students were suspended in the month of September. This year, that number decreased to 65, according to figures recently released by the district.

"A lot of teachers are worried," a Riverside teacher said. "On paper, it looks like suspension rates are down. Everything looks great. But really, they've eliminated the consequences for everything. Kids pick up on the fact that there are no consequences."

During 2008-09, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available, 64 percent of Riverside students were suspended at least once -- an increase from 10 percent of students the year before that, according to information released by the state.

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