BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Wednesday, the Buffalo Public School Board held it’s October meeting, where members unanimously approved a plan to buy new weapons detection systems that students will walk through when they enter the school.
Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams said anyone who enters the school will be required to pass through the device, which she says can scan many people at once. These are similar to what patrons pass through at stadiums, airports and amusement parks. Dr. Williams said her priority from day one at the helm of the district was safety and security, which is highlighted in the district’s strategic plan.
“We had to have safety first. I’ve been driving this initiative. I want safety in all of our schools every single day,” Dr. Williams said. “I hope that it gives people a level of comfort. We want our parents to feel comfortable sending their children to school and we want our students to come into school and know that they are safe.”
The new multi-million dollar contract includes $2.5 million for weapons detectors, and other funds for two way radios and more handheld wands. This investment comes after a student was stabbed at Buffalo School of Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management during the second week of the 2022-2023 school year, and months after a student was stabbed and a security officer shot at McKinley High School in February.
“It definitely became part of our conversation right after the McKinley incident where we wanted something that wasn’t going to be as hardened where it was going to be welcoming when students came into the building,” Larry Scott, at-large board of education member, told News 4 after the meeting.
Right now, all high school students are wanded by security officers, which Scott calls unreliable and an inconvenience. Dr. Williams says safety efforts take many forms and the district has tried to strengthen all aspects of its plan. It has new rules for visitors in school buildings and at athletic events as well as a new dismissal routine at McKinley High School, which was created after several fights broke out there earlier this month.
“It has to be multi-faceted. This is just one piece that is significant in the day and age we live in,” Scott added.
According to the Board of Education agenda, American Rescue Plan money will pay for these new weapons detectors, which are being purchased from a Buffalo-based company. Some question why these devices were not installed sooner.
“There is procedure we have to follow with purchasing and putting things out to bid and then rating on the bids that come in, especially when it is a high cost item such as this contract that we have,” Scott continued.
“We took it very, very seriously. We didn’t want to rush and be hasty and get a company for the sake of getting a company,” Dr. Williams concluded.
The district will begin installing the new weapon detection systems in school buildings in November. Officials hope the devices will be up and running in December.
Other School Board Matters:
Aside from security, many parents were concerned about transportation and the parent reimbursement program, which was approved at the last board meeting. Some cited concerns about equitable travel options for all parents. The district says more than 2,000 English speaking families filled out the initial enrollment paperwork and it is working to rollout a similar application to ELL (English Language Learners) families.
The Buffalo Teachers Federation picketed outside prior to the meeting, lobbying for a new union contract. Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore told News 4 the union and district have gone through the fact finding process and will be back at the negotiation table on Tuesday, Oct. 25. He is hopeful the district will have what he calls a fair proposal. The district put forward an offer in April, which Rumore has publicly criticized. He says this is the first contract proposal Superintendent Williams will be fully apart of and that negotiations have improved with her at the table.
The district unanimously approved a motion to file a civil rights complaint against Section VI Athletics, after what the district calls a ‘clerical error’ with Bennett High School football. Section VI forfeited all of Bennett’s games last week after it was found a player was ineligible because he did not file the transfer paperwork properly.
“I would leave that to our legal counsel to do. He’s been very involved,” Dr. Williams said. “I will share that we certainly have a meting that’s planned with some of the members of Section VI next week.”
Bennett’s record is now 1-6, but if they beat Hutch Tech on Saturday, they can make the playoffs.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.