Acting BPS superintendent seeks to tackle school violence issues

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The school district’s new safety plan was released Monday in the form of a letter, which mentions the hiring of 40 more school safety personnel and 11 bus helpers.

BUFFALO, NY – Amid another violent incident at a Buffalo school on Monday, the educator who hopes to take on the district’s top job offered ways to improve school safety while considering d other stages with his team.

This includes the Buffalo Police’s role as school resource officers.

As she explained via Zoom last week, it is the top priority of Acting Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams, who believes the pandemic may be a factor in understanding these violent incidents with students who unleash.

Williams says: “They’ve been isolated – you know so they’re going through grief and fear – a lot have been traumatized. I don’t think what we’re going through is necessarily different from what urban districts in our country are going through.”

The district released its school safety plan in a letter yesterday just as reports of the latest school incident were circulating. The focus is on hiring 40 more school safety personnel and 11 bus helpers. Williams also mentioned a thorough analysis of each school’s needs.

And she starts by trying to change what she says is the misperception that violence is prevalent. She says, “Our schools are safe. You really know that’s only about two percent of our children.”

Williams adds “One of the things we’re going to be focusing on is kind of an early warning system that looks at the kids that you know the principals know who they are, the counselors know who they are, the security teams know who they are. Kids who may have academic deficits, they may have suffered losses, they may have had behavioral infractions, you know, repeated outbursts of anger. And trying to get the most support as soon as possible to help them.

Dr Williams says they could also introduce more school counselors and psychologists to help struggling children.

And there’s the subject of more school resource officers. Williams says: “Certainly school resource officers. You know they’re specially trained to work with young people in school settings and so that’s definitely something that’s on the table.”

And it’s a fine line, “When we think about what needs to be done for our children – we think about safety and security versus the police and punishment.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has offered to provide more officers, even using retrained community police officers for school duty as well. The district, which has secured more state and federal pandemic relief funding, is expected to cover overtime costs.

Last week, 2 On Your Side specifically asked for the new police commissioner. “Did the district come to you and say we needed help?

Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia replied: “Personally, I haven’t had a discussion. As we know, a transition has occurred. Our head of school resources – Chief Aaron Young – has had a few discussions with them, but nothing has been made official.”

Gramaglia said today that they plan to meet at some point. Meanwhile, the district says it meets with police liaison supervisors every day.

Regardless, the school district‘s new safety plan was released Monday in the form of a letter that again mentions the hiring of 40 more school safety personnel and 11 bus helpers. It also provides new walkie-talkies. And it emphasizes rebuilding the school’s ties with the community and parents to better focus on struggling students.

Williams has previously met with the district’s Parent Coordinating Council who believe that school management teams mixing administrators, teachers and parents and designated parent liaison in schools are crucial.

Dr. Wendy Mistretta of the DPCC says “Parents will sometimes talk with parents first before talking with others. And parents can also then partner with teachers or students to determine who to talk to. It seems a bit cliché but it’s true that hurt people hurt people. So, you know, we have to find people who are hurting and help them rather than giving them space to hurt someone else.

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