Dear Families, Students, and Staff of Rochester STEM High School,
I am writing to inform you about the status of Social Studies teacher Diane Watkins. Ms. Watkins, along with two other adults from our school, accompanied ten of our seniors on a weekend field trip to New York City at the end of May. On Saturday, May 31, Ms. Watkins was detained during a visit to the Statue of Liberty and became absent from the group. Students completed their trip under the supervision of the other adults and were back in school Monday morning.
Ms. Watkins did not return calls over the weekend, but her family assured Principal Denaro on Monday that she was all right and would return to school Tuesday, June 3rd. Upon her return, Ms. Watkins was asked about her detainment and absence from the group. She did not provide an answer, and the District could not make her explain because of due process rights that protect teachers from answering questions that could lead to discipline.
Weeks later, the District learned that Ms. Watkins had been arrested for Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree. Those charges will be decided in a New York court. We have no reason to believe students were ever in danger. However, according to District policy, only law
enforcement officers and people with express authority can carry weapons at school functions. Principal Denaro has called all of the parents of students who attended this field trip. We have instructed Ms. Watkins not to contact students over the summer, as the District investigates this
matter internally. She will not be returning to STEM High School when school resumes and will not be working with students until this matter is resolved. I have been receiving questions about when I was personally notified of this matter and whether action should have been taken sooner.
We are conducting a high level review to learn all the facts, but it is clear to me that the situation could have been communicated and managed more effectively within the organization. We will use the review to improve internal processes and ensure that the District responds promptly and thoroughly in any situation that raises questions about the safety of our children.
Superintendent of Schools
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