SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Schenectady City School District implemented a joint training on Therapeutic Crisis Intervention with school staff and Schenectady Police Officers. In the same week, a mother of a Schenectady High student claimed a violent incident occurred that involved her son.

A concerned mom reached out to NEWS10 after her teenage son was allegedly “jumped” and assaulted by four individuals last week at the high school. Yahaira Acosta said that more must be done to ensure student safety.

Although 17-year-old William Couvertier is set to graduate in four months, Acosta said she’s scared to send him to school. “This is my youngest and only boy. And I have to be every day thinking and finding ways to protect him because he’s not safe at school,” she said. “I know where my son is when he’s home, and I can’t trust the school district to guarantee me the safety of my child when they have possession of him.”

Acosta said that on January 18, she received a call from a Schenectady High representative about Couvertier getting assaulted—thrown to the ground and punched—on the way to the bus by four individuals inside the school. He came home with bruises and a black eye.

Couvertier was suspended two days later due to an alleged verbal confrontation with one of the individuals. “It’s a lot of pressure going on outside of school and in school,” he said. “You got everything piling up.”

Schenectady School District’s Director of School Climate and Safety, Jeffrey Russo, said they are tackling safety and the ongoing youth mental health crisis in countless ways. “I took this on as a bit of a challenge, knowing that Schenectady has had its difficulties in the past,” Russo said.

The district hired Jeffrey Russo to oversee the safety and security of all 17 district buildings in November 2021. One of his missions has been to bridge the gap between the school and the police department.

Russo’s proposed collaboration is already bringing the two entities together. Around ten school staff members and ten police officers are training to get certified for Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, or TCI, at Zone 5 Regional Law Enforcement Training Academy.

According to Cornell University, Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) helps “create a trauma-sensitive environment where children and adults are safe and feel safe” and “Proactively prevent and/or de-escalate potential crisis situations with children.”

The on-staff school community engagement officers assigned to the high school are also in the process of getting certification. The district is currently working toward getting all district staff certified in TCI. “Before I was in this role, I was a school resource officer. So I was in schools for the last eight years,” Russo said. “The whole social piece that’s been missing for the last two years is what we are trying to catch up with right now.”

Schenectady students in seventh through twelfth grade were almost entirely remote from March 2020 until the beginning of the 2021 school year. In October, teacher Chris Ognibene urged the school board to make changes as the violent incidents were too much for the staff to handle, and the student’s mental health was at crisis levels.

Ognibene went on to share a list of disturbing incidents at the school: Everything from a student threatening a teacher with racial slurs to outside community members entering the building to assault a student. The same month, a parent shared a video with NEWS10 where a high school student assaulted another male student in the hallway.

Starting February 7, the district will add a dozen school safety officers/security personnel—mainly to Schenectady High School—after they complete extensive training. Russo said the district is also taking steps to make the high school building more secure by evaluating its surveillance system. 

“Obviously, something’s gotta change about that school. It has to,’ Couvertier said.

William doesn’t have much confidence the school’s environment will transform before his time is up at Schenectady High, but he hopes the school will be different for the sake of his cousin in 9th grade.