BUFFALO, N.Y. — On July 22, Buffalo Police found a BB gun in a classroom in the Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet School. A 14-year-old student was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon for a person under 16 years old and is now in Family Court in connection to the incident.

Members of Citizen Action of New York, Alliance for Quality Education and education advocates say there should be alternative measures than charging a child in such a situation.

"We want to say, ‘hey, look, why don't you come over here and work off the cost of what happened,’” Demone Smith, Citizen Action Education Committee chair, said. “And whatever it may be, it could be even put him in the position of mentoring, or put him in the position where he has to help out the community.”

What You Need To Know

  • A student from Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet school was charged after bringing a BB gun to school. He is now in Family Court
  • Members of Citizen Action of New York, Alliance for Quality Education and education advocates met today to call for restorative approaches
  • Community leaders say holistic approaches help children in the court system to avoid repeating bad behavior or actions

Smith says putting a child in the court system can contribute to the school-to prison pipeline.

"Young students get so normalized into the criminal justice system that it just creates its own pathway right into prison," Smith said.

Sharon Belton-Cottman, the president of the Buffalo Board of Education, says she was surprised when she heard the student was charged. She recalls a 2019 investigation of Buffalo Common Councilman Ulysees Wingo, after he brought a loaded gun, for which he had a permit for, into a city school. Wingo was not charged.

"Instantly I thought that this would be a similar situation,” Belton-Cottman said. “If you were tolerant of an adult that broke the law, why wouldn't you be tolerant somewhat of a child?"

When asked why the student was charged in this case when in a similar situation, Councilmember Wingo was not, a Buffalo Police Department spokesperson said: "The child in question was charged with 'juvenile delinquency’ ... It means the child will receive services. No punishment."

BPD also says because the student's case is in Family Court, specifics on the outcome will be kept private.