‘Change takes everyone’: Rochester leaders address violence at schools


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Following reports of violence at Rochester City schools, the district and city officials are working together to figure out how to make schools safer for everyone. 

This came after reports of more violence on and off school grounds, leading four unions representing RCSD teachers to write a note to the district suggesting 11 measures they thought would help increase safety. 

On Monday, News 8 spoke to Rochester City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot to hear his thoughts. Lightfoot has been at the forefront of addressing violence in the community. 

“To hear about the incidences that are going on in our school district, and be quite honest with you, they’re happening all across the country, we’re seeing this spike and increase in violence that we’re seeing…it’s very troubling,” Lightfoot said. 

Just last week, News 8 spoke with a teacher who said she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a student after breaking up a fight during school hours. Lightfoot said bringing in support from outside organizations could be beneficial to supporting staff and educators, especially with ongoing shortages. 

“The more resources that you can have from the village, if you will, to help to accent the teachers and educators, because their responsibility, primarily in my opinion, should be to teach. They should not be there to be parenting, they should not be there to be trying to be security guards, and etc. So if it’s warranted, which it seems to be, to have those additional resources available, whether they be mental health, whether they be counseling services, or whether they be mentors, I think that we have to do our due diligence, to make sure that that’s, that’s available to our students and parents,” Lightfoot said. 

To help support students in crisis, RCSD said they will be partnering with organizations like Pathways to Peace, Office of Neighborhood Safety and Person in Crisis teams. Lightfoot said these groups can extend support outside the classroom. 

“I think they’ll have an ability to work outside of the classroom and working with parents and and working with populations that traditionally don’t Get reached by traditional programming within the schools,” Lightfoot added. 

But the city council member also said addressing the violence isn’t just up to the school district. 

“Everybody’s got to step up to the plate, you know, we can’t kick the bucket down the street and expect someone else to do it. We all have a role to play,” he said. 

Which is one reason Lightfoot a first-of-its-kind barber shop Monday at East High School. Not only will students be able to get a free hair cut, but Lightfoot also says this partnership will help teach students about entrepreneurship and new skills, while also building relationships with adults in the community. .

“The more that we could interject positive role models into these young people’s lives, I think that would help deter violence, I think that that will give them an alternative to negative behavior. And I think that it will give them a path forward,” Lightfoot said. 

Lightfoot hopes this is just the beginning and encourages other businesses in the area to help support youth in the community with programs or new initiatives. 

“I’m imploring business owners who are out here having business in the city to make themselves available, to help to become mentors, and help to get these young people’s lives to change their course of life in a positive direction, to be supportive to the teachers, to be supportive of the district. It’s going to take everybody stepping up to the plate,” he said. 

In the coming weeks, RCSD is meeting with groups like Pathways to Peace and the Office of Neighborhood Safety to figure out how to best support students and utilize resources. 

Their plan will be presented to both the Rochester City Council and the Rochester City School District for their consideration.

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