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Buffalo Public Schools outline district-wide security changes

Buffalo Public Schools Associate Superintendent Casandra Wright delivers a report to the School Board on security changes.
Mike Desmond
Buffalo Public Schools Associate Superintendent Casandra Wright delivers a report to the School Board on security changes.

A Buffalo Public Schools student may well head off to class along streets patrolled by the Buffalo Police Department. A young student may ride a yellow bus with a district aide. A high school student may get on Metro Bus or Metro Rail patrolled by Transit Police. In school, that same student may deal with a member of the school district's security team.

The agencies want to make kids feel safer.

The McKinley High School fight that left a student stabbed, another wounded and a security guard shot forced a look at security across the city school system. District officials and parents don't like what's been found. And now the emergence of cell phone video showing the school bus beating of a young student by another student has made it worse. Interim Superintendent Tonja Williams is forcing changes, from emergency barricade locks on building doors, to more walkie-talkies and metal detectors, to hiring 17 more bus aides.

Associate Superintendent Casandra Wright delivered a report to the school board Wednesday evening on more changes, like hiring a lot of new school security officers.

"We are going to have rolling interviews. Over the next two days, I will be, along with my team, interviewing 16 candidates for security officers and we will be interviewing candidates for security officer each and every week. The superintendent has given me permission to hire at least 40 new security officers," Wright said.

Buffalo Police Lt. Kelly Craig said the unit assigned to schools has resource officers with special training for the job and college degrees that apply to making schools safer.

"From nurses to social workers. The chief actually has a background in social work. A lot of us are mentors and coaches. Chief and I are coaches, as well," Craig said. "So we understand the commitment to the district. We are embedded in this district. We want to be here. Every SRO (Student Resource Officer) wants to be here. I make sure, under Chief Young's leadership, that we have consistent de-escalation training. All of us have crisis intervention training. We're certified in that."

New Transit Police Chief Brian Patterson said his officers will be working closely with other departments to keep the schools safe. It's personal with him, as he has three boys in city schools.

"Partnership. We're committed to partnering with the Buffalo Public Schools, other community stakeholders, to ensure our kids are safe, to and from school," Patterson said. "We're committed to making sure we have a presence. It matters when our youth see adult supervision."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.