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Parent of injured student, community groups want more info after June assault, Buffalo charter school responds

"We know there's ongoing work to do and so anytime that we have fallen short in that regard, it is always something that we are transparent and self-reflective on."

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The mother of a 10-year-old student wants more information after she says her son was assaulted at Buffalo Collegiate Charter School last month, but since then claims to have gotten few answers about what happened.

In photos provided by the family, Zachary Walker is seen with bruises under his left eye and left cheek and in one picture is wearing a neckbrace. His mother, Lisa Walker said he also suffered a concussion.

The family and parent groups including "We the Parents," and "Stop the Violence" have called on Buffalo Collegiate to release the incident report that led to Zachary's injuries and want an investigation into the school's incident reporting procedures.

Brian Pawloski, the head of school at Buffalo Collegiate Charter confirmed with 2 On Your Side Tuesday night that the incident happened on June 13, but said that he was prohibited by law from discussing specifics.

"I can tell you that Ms. Walker and her family have been great partners with us over the years and in each instance, that we engage in, we work to communicate transparently with every family that is affected by any incident," Pawloski said.

He added that Buffalo Collegiate Charter is committed to ensuring the safety of everyone in their building, which includes asking for law enforcement assistance when necessary.

Pawloski added that the school does not condone violence of any kind.

"Unfortunately, the query at hand involves a specific isolated student matter which we were prohibited by law from discussing, but I can tell you generally that anytime an incident occurs at school, we have a process in place to handle it depending on what is involved. We follow New York Law and the Commissioner of Education regulations related to any disciplinary matter," Pawloski said.

All New York schools are required to self-report violent incidents, bullying, school threats, drug possession, weapons possession, and other things through the State Department of Education's SSEC (School Safety and Education Climate) system.

Reports from schools in good standing, like Buffalo Collegiate Charter, aren't due until July 25, but Pawloski confirmed the June 13 incident will be included. Other schools designated as PD or persistently dangerous for the school year must submit their reports by July 11.

Based on the self-reported data compiled by the state, since being founded in 2018, Buffalo Collegiate has only recorded three incidents, one sexual offense, and two for weapons possession. All three occurred during their first school year in operation 2018-2019. In comparison, Tapestry Charter School submitted 35 incidents that same school year.

Buffalo Collegiate has maintained a zero SSEC report record since then, including through the COVID-19 pandemic, while other Buffalo charter schools have incurred as many as 43 over the past two school years (2019-2021), according to an analysis done by 2 On Your Side.

Aymanuel Radford from the group We The Parents questions whether the "self-reported" nature of the SSEC system paints a true picture of the incidents occurring, as schools are responsible for holding themselves accountable.

"There's violence in schools right, nobody is going to sit here and say every school is perfect. I guess the reality is the community and parents need to know how violent right, if there are fights happening every day and kids are being hurt, we need to know that. That's why they have that mechanism in place so we can deem if a school is too violent or not too violent," Radford said.

He added that rather than seeing parent groups and "whistleblowers" as foes, schools should be more willing to see them as allies.

"If a school doesn't feel like it has the resources to keep its kids safe they should come to the community and say, 'hey here are the resources we need, more first response programs like Buffalo Peacekeepers, we need more parents involved we need these things from the community to make your children safe'," said Radford.

Reading from a prepared statement Pawloski explained how Buffalo Collegiate has already implemented restorative measures to make sure if violent incidents do occur, that students are counseled rather than only punished. He noted how the school has expanded its Student Support Team to include a licensed social worker, a mental health coordinator, a dean of students, two associate deans, and a restorative practices coordinator.

In conclusion, Pawloski said, "Our school works very hard to create a safe space for students and families and teachers and staff to be a part of on a daily basis. And we know there's ongoing work to do. And so anytime that we have fallen short in that regard, it is always something that we are transparent and self-reflective on and work really hard to ensure that every time someone steps foot in our building, they feel welcome and safe."


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