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Gunman fires at school board

Local school boards these days have a lot to contend with: shrinking revenues, rising costs, labor contracts, high stakes tests, and on and on.

But all that pales in comparison to what the school board in Panama City, Fla., dealt with this week when a routine board meeting turned into a nightmare.

A man named Clay Duke spray-painted a circle with a big letter V inside it, then pulled out a gun and ordered everyone out of the room except for the superintendent and male board members. Board members begged Duke not to shoot them. The superintendent even pleaded with Duke to let everyone else go and deal with him one on one.

But Duke opened fire on the board, getting several shots off (but not hitting anyone) before a security guard fired at Duke, who fell to the floor and ended up shooting himself in the head.

(This version of the video does not show the ultimate outcome.)

Duke suffered a host of problems, including a criminal past, a mental health history and money troubles, the Associated Press reported. What brought him before officials of the Bay County School District, apparently, was the fact that his wife had been fired by them. It seems it was, as they say, the perfect storm, unlikely to be repeated there or anywhere else.

Yet the incident seems likely to have school board members and school admininstrators around the country taking a second look around their board rooms this week. (Remember how much the shootings at Columbine ended up altering schools across the country?) Locally, Buffalo is one of the few districts to have security guards present at board meetings.

Will officials in any local schools look at Clay Duke and decide to reconsider security arrangements at their own board meetings?

- Mary Pasciak

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee | [email protected]


Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes | [email protected]


Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone | [email protected]


Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB | [email protected]

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