BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — One week after a student was slashed in the face at Riverside High School, the Buffalo Board of Education held a special meeting where Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams presented for more than 90 minutes about safety and security. The incident at Riverside wasn’t mentioned once, which she says was intentional.

“We know that it’s a school that’s in need of some additional supports and we are providing those supports,” Dr. Williams said.

Dr. Williams spoke to the media briefly about the Riverside slashing after the board of education’s special session. Last week, District Attorney John Flynn told News 4, 19-year-old Makai Cook entered the building before the fight occurred. The district wouldn’t comment on this.

“It is an ongoing investigation. We are letting it play out. We are cooperating and that’s really all I can say on that,” Dr. Williams added.

Marc Bruno is a history teacher at Riverside. He says district leadership, including the superintendent, isn’t doing enough to solve the problem. He says 911 has been called to Riverside almost every day since the school year started.

“Riverside is not safe or conducive to learning. I think if you can’t take care of it and you can’t tackle that job, then you need to leave and let someone else try,” Bruno said.

On Wednesday, Riverside High sheltered in place for about an hour after a student allegedly punched and put his body through a wall and pushed the assistant principal. The shelter in place impacted learning time as the school waited to resume.

“The students who do the right thing every single day, which is most of Riverside High School, have rights too. They don’t need to be traumatized by fights and stabbings every single day,” Bruno said. “We need a zero tolerance policy at Riverside. If you get in a fight at this school, you will not be attending here. You will go to an alternative school until your behavior changes.”

Parent leaders and teachers are calling for a better alternative school that provides counseling and resources for what they say is a small group of students who need help.

“It’s pretty much vacant most of the time. Some kids go but not on a full time basis. We need to improve that program and I think the success of the district will skyrocket,” Ed Speidel, a BPS parent who was at Wednesday’s meeting, said.

Buffalo Public Schools released the following statement about the shelter in place on Wednesday.

“Protecting the health and safety of all students and staff at Riverside High School is a priority. Earlier today the school went into shelter in place because of a student experiencing emotional distress and to deescalate the situation. School officials followed protocols by going into shelter in place, contacting the Buffalo Police, and the student’s family. Additional supportive services will be put into place.” 

Buffalo Public Schools

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team 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.