Response to the horrific Buffalo shooting looks to limit gun violence and provide education

On May 14, a self-proclaimed white supremacist drove over three hours to a 

majority-black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, where he murdered 10 and injured three others in a local supermarket.  The suspect, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron, wrote a manifesto in which he expressed his extremist views against black people.  He wrote in detail about the “replacement theory,” a conspiracy theory that states that non-white people seek to replace white people in both Europe and the U.S.  Gendron also expressed anti-semitic and  homophobic views, and pledged support for other white supremacist shooters such as Dylann Roof, who murdered nine African Americans and injured one on June 17, 2015, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, South Carolina.

At the supermarket 13 people were shot, 11 of them black, and two white.  Among those who died were Celestine Chaney, 65, a loving and caring grandmother to six children; Roberta A. Drury, 32, a happy, good-hearted person who spent much of her time helping her brother with leukemia; Andre Mackniel, 53, who was buying a surprise birthday cake for his son’s third birthday; Katherine Massey, 72, a prominent activist in her community who urged action against gun violence; Margus D. Morrison, 52, who was buying snacks for his weekly movie night with his wife; Heyward Patterson, 67, a father of three, who was described by his nephew Terrell Clark as a “happy man who had a big heart”; Aaron Salter Jr., 55, a “hero” security guard who confronted Gendron and shot him, but unfortunately lost his life; Geraldine Talley, 62, a sweet person and an avid baker, who was shot while shopping with her fiance; Ruth Whitfield, 86, who had been at the supermarket from a nursing home where she was caring for her husband; and Pearl Young, 77, a substitute teacher who was described as a “true pillar in the community” by her family.  All those who lost their lives were black.

Soon after the attack, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, discussed ways to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.  One of the topics she focused on the most was social media companies—more specifically, how they could better detect and remove racist content on their platforms. 

“I want them to have a trigger system – excuse the word trigger, but this system that would immediately alert individuals when racist content or of any manifesto type materials that shows a propensity or desire to harm others, to kill them, to maim them, to have, you know, mass casualties,” said Hochul in an interview with NPR journalist Ayesha Rascoe.  

Governor Hochul also proposed strengthening New York’s gun laws and closing loopholes in these laws.  For instance, Gendron was cleared by psychiatric staff of Binghamton General Hospital and by state police, despite referencing a murder-suicide in a school assignment.  Had he not been cleared, he would have been subject to New York’s Red Flag Law, a law which would have prevented him from buying a gun in New York.  She is conducting an investigation of the social media platforms that Gendron claims radicalized him to white supremacy, such as 4chan.  Hochul also mentioned that she is now requiring state police to file an extreme risk protection order when they believe someone poses a risk to themselves or others. 

Additionally, in the wake of the shooting, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) canceled the June U.S. History and Government Regents exams.  The department reviewed all Regents exams to be administered in June 2022 to “explore potential areas of support for students and schools across the state.”  During that review, it was determined that the U.S. History Regents contained material that had the “potential to emphasize student trauma caused by the recent violence in Buffalo.”  The test had been developed for over 2 years and could not be modified in time.  

“To appropriately support our students and their well-being, the department is canceling the administration of the Regents Examination in United States History and Government (Framework) for June 2022,” said Commissioner of Education Betty Rosa.  

Many Schreiber students are affected by the cancellation of the U.S. History Regents, leaving them to wonder how Schreiber will adapt to this.  

“As to the Regents cancellation, we just keep moving forward.  We will be giving a cumulative final exam in all US classes that will provide for a means of testing the students on the material they’ve learned throughout the year,” said Social Studies Chair Mr. Lawrence Schultz.

 Questions have arisen regarding how Schreiber will discuss the mass shooting in classrooms.  

“Whenever there is a tragedy like some of the recent ones that we’ve experienced, the Social Studies Department always looks for ways to connect the event to the historical context that gave rise to it,” said Mr. Schultz. 

Schreiber’s Social Studies Department is dedicated to always providing a safe space to let students express their feelings and thoughts on difficult events.