Attendance was down at Harvey Austin Elementary School the day after a gun scare sent more than a dozen cop cars, K9 units, the SWAT team and Erie County’s Air One helicopter to the Sycamore Street campus.
Officials say 140 students opted to stay home on Friday. A lockdown can be traumatic, no matter what the outcome. Students who did return to class were greeted by an increased police presence and a crisis team of two social workers who were ready to discuss Thursday’s incident with the children.
Around 60 students were at the school Thursday for after school programs when a call came in to 911 that there was a man with a gun inside the school.
Melissa May said, “I got three different stories. Some kid had a gun, some student had a gun, some teacher had a gun, everybody had all these different stories.”
Mintues turned into agonizing hours before police evacuated the students to School 91, a designated evacuation zone. The children and the adult mentors were frisked for weapons during the transfer. That was when police took 52-year-old Dwayne Ferguson, the local leader of MAD DADS, into custody.
Lajahnei Robinson said, “Our hands behind our heads like this and they were just patting us down, checking our boots and all that.”
It was during that pat down check that police say 52-year-old Dwayne Ferguson, the leader of the Buffalo chapter of MAD DADS, was found to have a handgun holstered on his hip.
During the incident, around a dozen teachers and staff and six adult mentors were inside. The teachers acted on what they’ve been trained to do.
One of the teachers at the school told News 4, “They came in and they locked us down. I think we’re all okay. As drilled, it was perfect.”
A social worker at the school told News 4, “When I heard lockdown on the intercom, we followed procedure, did what we were supposed to do, and I was just praying the whole time. I thank God that I’m alive today.”
But could things have been handled better?
Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore said, “We need to do a sit back, and say thank goodness, this was not really a life-threatening thing, let’s learn from it so we do an even better job next time.”
While student attendance was down, teachers who were supposed to be off on Friday or working outside the school came into school to be with the children.