RCSD awarded $665,000 to train hundreds of employees in deescalation techniques


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — 1,200 employees in the Rochester City School District are set to receive new training on violence prevention and reduction.

The district was awarded a three-year grant of $665,000 by the Department of Justice last year. But the training had been put off for months due to the pandemic’s early stages.

Jim Sheppard, Director of Safety and Security says it’s very timely the training will commence now, after several violent occurrences in school buildings this fall.

Dan Betancourt says the return to class after over a year of virtual learning hasn’t been easy for students, or staff. Betancourt is Supervisor of Safety and Security with the district.

“Over the summer, we brought our kids back to a structured environment they’re not accustomed to,” he said.             

The DOJ grant money will pay for training, headed by the Crisis Prevention Institute.

“We were shocked, because being in this business you can apply for grants and never receive anything because its so competitive,” said Sheppard.

20 RCSD staff members will be trained first, as nonviolent crisis intervention instructors. They will in turn train 1,200 district employees, ranging from school security officers, to counselors, to general education teachers.

What exactly is de-escalation? A lot of it is communication, school officials say.

“This starts not just with the two people involved in a physical altercation, it starts with the language you use when you have that communication with a students. If I come in all hard their natural reaction is to come back hard,” said Sheppard.

“This provides tools to disruptive and violent behavior in the schools, in the most least restrictive manner possible,” said Chuck Cutler, RCSD Emergency Response Planning Coordinator.

He says they’re thankful we’ve gotten farther in the pandemic; the training isn’t something that can never been done over zoom.

In the meantime, other initiatives, like “Fathers Initiating a Restorative Environment” (F.I.R.E.) are working so far, according to Sheppard. The superintendent also released a full action plan earlier this fall to address an uptick in violence.

“We are seeing that from September to now, seeing things are starting to come down and there’s less issues in our buildings,” said Sheppard.

Training is set to start over February break.

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