Rochester City School District releases plan to address violence, safety in schools

Regional News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester City School District released details Wednesday about its plan to address violence and safety in schools.

Teachers in the district have been calling for action amid a recent increase in violent incidents in and around schools.

According to the plan released Wednesday, the district has already “assessed and revised” security plans at a number of school buildings. The district is also coordinating with the Rochester Police Department on school arrival and departure security.

The district says it has also installed lockdown buttons in a number of school buildings, and revised its code of conduct.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Read the letter to RCSD parents

Dear Rochester City School District Community,

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to present significant challenges in schools across the country. Superintendents of other urban school districts have shared concerns about student conduct, social-emotional and mental health, an increase in acts of violence occurring outside of schools, and staffing shortages. We are not alone.

Over the past few weeks, a narrative about our schools has been created that depicts our schools and our scholars negatively. Disruptions happen in schools, and while they are not acceptable, the way in which we speak about our students has a lasting impact on them, our families, and this community.

Our schools are also impacted directly and indirectly by these factors.  Below is a comprehensive outline of the steps we have taken to date and our continued efforts moving forward. 

Student Conduct

•         Utilizing the District Code of Conduct with fidelity to facilitate consistent and equitable practices in response to student misconduct.

•         Increasing partnerships and efforts that support greater engagement and supervision of students during high needs times.

•         Identifying and adjusting strategies for increased supervision within buildings, including establishing systems and expectations for student transitions, arrival, dismissal, and other times where disruptions are prone to occur.

Social-Emotional and Mental Health Supports

•         Aligning resources to provide targeted support to schools, students, and the community, and professional development to staff, while expanding multi-tier support services. This helps to ensure outcomes for safety, social-emotional learning, mental health, and attendance for every child will improve so students feel a strong sense of belonging, love, and care.

•         Created a Student Support Services Resources Guide for school leadership teams to utilize during crisis.

•         Developed and adopted a Revised Code of Conduct on June 24, 2021, as Policy 1400, which governs the conduct of students, all school personnel, parents, and other visitors when on school property, while traveling in vehicles funded by the District, and while attending school functions. RCSD Code of Conduct Plain Language Summary 2021 has been translated into four different languages that can be accessed on the website: Spanish, Nepali, Swahili, and Arabic.

•         The RocRestorative team has held several Virtual Staff Support Circles to address staff needs, where they can engage in learning surrounding the impacts of the pandemic and the ways that individuals respond, react, and recover.

•         Developed the Comprehensive SEL Guide for students, parents, staff, and administrators, which provides detailed information regarding social-emotional supports, prevention, and mental health supports available within the District for all stakeholders.

•         Provide employees with access to district wellness supports, including NexGen Employee Assistance Program (EAP)® and Telehealth Services through Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield.

An Increase in Acts Of Violence Occurring Outside Of Schools

•         Assessed and revised individual school security plans and modified dismissal procedures for: Dr. Alice Holloway Young School of Excellence, East Lower and Upper Schools, Franklin Lower and Upper Schools, Joseph C. Wilson Foundation Academy, Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School, Northeast College High School, Northwest Junior High at Douglass, School of the Arts, and School Without Walls. Security plans/dismissal procedures for the remaining secondary schools will be adjusted as necessary.

•         Review of the security procedures at All City High was conducted and new measures were implemented in response to the incidents outside the campus.

•         Installation of lockdown buttons at several campuses have been completed. This mechanism is to alert students and staff to follow lockdown procedures. It also initiates a call to 911 advising that the building is in lockdown, caused by a threat within the building.

•         Reviewed the District’s safety equipment inventory in order to replace outdated equipment.

•         Coordinated with the Rochester Police Department to support arrivals and dismissals at our middle and secondary schools. Families and staff were surveyed this week on whether they want this service to continue. The Board of Education will vote on the resolution to have RPD outside of schools at arrival and dismissal on November 9, 2021.

•         Safety and Security mobile units are on special detail throughout the District to provide an immediate response to situations. In addition, an independent security firm has been hired to offer services outside of school buildings.

Staffing Shortages

•         Held recruitment events throughout the community, including Saturdays at the Public Market, RochesterWorks Hospitality Virtual Job Fair, and multiple open interview events at Central Office and the Hudson Transportation Center.

•         Increased the compensation and benefits of staff members in the RTA, RAP and BENTE collective bargaining units, including incentives, signing, and referral bonuses.

•         Deployed additional resources to school buildings to assist with coverage and supervision, including Central Office staff and an increase to the substitute allocation allowed at schools. 

The mission of the RCSD is to foster students’ individual talents and abilities in a nurturing environment of equity. In order to make this happen, I am asking for your support. It is time for us to partner and problem solve to develop solutions. I am launching a Community Action Initiative, where we will address the issues impacting our schools.  Our work begins this Saturday, November 6 at the Franklin Campus, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

I look forward to working with you to change this narrative to uplift our students, supports our staff, and creates a safe and high-quality learning environment.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lesli Myers-Small

Superintendent

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