Masten District Council Member Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. was banned by the Buffalo Board of Education Wednesday from setting foot on district property for at least 18 months as a consequence for bringing a loaded gun into a school.
No exception was made for him to attend his son's high school graduation next week.
Wingo has a permit to carry a concealed weapon but brought the gun into Riverside High School while attending an event last month. He checked the gun in with the principal, who stored it in a safe.
Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said Wingo "did commit a crime" by bringing the gun into the school, but said he used "prosecutorial discretion" and "a little common sense" in deciding not to charge Wingo.
Members of the School Board – who see this as a serious offense in an age in which the nation’s schools are besieged by gun violence and mass shootings – did not let Wingo off the hook.
The board voted, 6 to 3, on Wednesday to impose the ban on Wingo.
The issue has stirred community debate, which continued during the board meeting in City Hall. Few from the public spoke on the issue – and Wingo was not in attendance to speak on his behalf – but Board of Education members had a thoughtful discussion both for and against Wingo.
Board Member Larry Quinn said he's no fan of Wingo, but made a case that the Council member be allowed to attend his son's graduation.
"Our job is for children," Quinn said, "and there's a child involved here who is not going to have his parent at his graduation for nothing that he did.
"I feel strongly there needs to be an exception for this," Quinn said.
Board members Patricia Pierce and Lou Petrucci also voted against the resolution.
"This is an emotional issue," Pierce said, "but what is a sad testimony to me is that one of our students is graduating this year and he may not have his dad there to see him receive his diploma."
But Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold said other parents have been barred from school and graduation for far less egregious acts.
“There are other parents who are really in the same position," Nevergold said. “Do we allow one person but not the other because they are not high-profile enough?"
Board Member Theresa Harris-Tigg said it is a tough decision, but as soon as Wingo realized he had that gun he should have walked right out the door.
"We have a policy in place," said Board Member Jennifer Mecozzi, "and we have a job to do."