After the disappearance and death of Trevyan Rowe, the Rochester City School District offered a remorseful apology for various missteps, including not spotting Rowe walking away from School #12 immediately after getting off his morning bus.
School Board President Van White called the errors “grievous mistakes” in a news conference Tuesday, two days after Trevyan’s body was found in the Genesee River.
Below are his answers to questions left unanswered after that news conference.
Adam: What are your reflections on everything that’s out there?
Van White: Well, I’m glad it’s out there, the “it” being that we made a mistake, that we have no choice to accept responsibility and accountability.
Adam: Are there any chances of criminal charges coming out of this given there was some tampering?
Van White: I used to be a prosecutor and I believe using that knowledge, I do believe there might be an opportunity (Monroe County District Attorney) Sandra Doorley or the Attorney General’s office based on what we know, again, I don’t wear that badge anymore, but I do have reason to believe that crimes were committed.
Adam: What do you think about the superintendent’s proposal to add an attendance employee in every schools?
Van White: If that is what is necessary, so be it, but ultimately I don’t know if that’s going to be the best solution … I think the prudent approach is to look at this school by school, look at the data points and see if teachers are actually doing what they’re doing and I also think quite honestly this tragedy ought to have everyone looking inward and on a day-to-day basis, am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing?
Adam: One note that I pulled from the news conference is that he wasn’t labeled a child of autism. Did he not get label because the school didn’t have it?
Van White: It’s a tough spot that I’m in, I realize that people expect public servants to be very public … I’m not prepared to answer that because I’m not sure I have all the answers at this particular time.
Adam: Do you think we’ve heard everything at this point?
Van White: I think there could be other things revealed over time and I’m not just talking about the district … As a civil lawyer the justice system never really resolves things, sometimes it agitates things and I fear that this tragedy will get even darker because of the civil justice system.
Adam: Do you have a message to anyone looking at this as representative of the district as a whole?
Van White: To say, oh yes, this was an aberration, this was a blip, that’s dismissive of the reality of many students and many parents, so we have to ask, “Do you feel safe?” And I’ve spoken to many parents who say they feel safe, but I’ve spoken to many who do not and it’s my responsibility, it’s my colleagues responsibility, it’s the superintendent’s responsibility, it’s everyone’s responsibility to respond to those concerns.
Adam: You wrote a children’s book about hope called, Heroes. Where does that message fit into all this?
Van White: We may not be able to give them the 79 or 89 percent graduation rate but we can give them hope … We have to give them a reason to get out of bed and go to school … And that reason is increased graduation rates they can hopefully see, that reason is teachers who care by face and name … that reason is and I’ve seen it happen with teachers and administrators, washing the students’ clothes when they come in, I’ve seen it as simple as a hug, hope doesn’t cost money, it does take time and I think all of us whether it’s pressing an attendance button, or washing clothes or giving a hug or tutoring somebody, we’re all capable of giving hope.