‘Safety continues to deteriorate’: Teachers union calls for action amid Rochester school violence

Monroe County

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — In a letter issued by the area teacher’s union, representatives and leaders requested that Rochester City School District (RCSD) place an immediate directive for any student who engages in violence at school property. As part of their appeal, the Rochester Teachers Association (RTA) requested that students involved in violence be placed in remote learning and be receive mental or emotional health counseling.

The request was sent to administrative leaders at RCSD on Sunday, stating in part:

“As representatives of Rochester City School District’s teachers, paraprofessionals, school administrators, and non-teaching employees, we are calling on you to immediately issue a directive that any student who engages in violence at school, and causes injury to others, be placed on remote learning and also receive the social, emotional and mental health support that they may need.”

“This would also protect the right of all other students to learn in a safer environment and would diminish the likelihood of further injury to students and school staff.”

In response to the letter, RCSD Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small communicated a series of steps the district will take to address the issue, but refused to exercise the policy request set forth by RTA. She reiterated the current system of conduct for “violent behavior” and shared a new support plan to put into effect at Franklin Upper School immediately:

  • Staffing supports (School Safety Officers and the Mobile Safety Unit)
  • School-specific needs to be addressed during Superintendent Conference Day including work sessions
  • Principal Smith will meet with his staff on Monday to gather feedback and share next steps
  • Support teams (Trauma, Illness and Grief and ROCRestorative) will be available to address needs

The district says a complete outline of actions will be shared with parents on Wednesday.

When asked about the superintendent’s response, RTA President Adam Urbanski suggested that the district’s inaction is the reason why schools remain unsafe. “The superintendent’s response is a non-response,” he said. “We are checking with our attorneys whether her claims that putting violent students who cause injury to others would indeed be a violation of student privacy or of any educational law.”

This comes two days after five different teaching staff members at Franklin High School in Rochester say they were assaulted. In addition to its call for action against violations of safety at schools, RTA also suggested placing school resource officers inside area high schools. Myers-Small did not support the idea.

During a recent school board meeting on October 28, Myers-Small said new modifications at several schools’ arrival and dismissal procedures will be prepared. “We will be collaborating with our board and dads or parents and students in our entire community for a panel discussion,” she explained.

On October 21, Urbanski said a Franklin High School student was suspended after a teacher at RCSD was allegedly sexually assaulted by the same student earlier that month. The rise in violence at schools has been questioned by local organizations, parents, and now RTA. In their most recent statement to the district, union members urged leaders to issue the directive before schools reopen.

A second proposal letter addressed to Myers-Small and district members asking for changes to make the district safer was sent by RTA earlier this month. check out the letter from BENTE President Dan DiClemente, RAP President Angelina Rivera, ASAR President John Rowe, and Urbanski below:

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