ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester City School District Superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small says RCSD is addressing concerns over student and staff safety in city schools.
The superintendent’s announcement comes one day after a district teacher shared her account of an alleged sexual assault by a student during school hours.
RCSD released the following statement on this incident Friday afternoon:
“On October 8, 2021, there was an altercation at Franklin High School involving a student and a teacher. As part of the District’s disciplinary practice, the student was entitled to due process and has received it in accordance with the law. Following this process, the student was scheduled to return to school this week. We are working with the teacher to provide support as the student transitions back into the school building. “
Earlier this week, four union leaders who represent RCSD employees co-wrote a letter to the superintendent and Board of Education to call for changes to make the district safer.
Writing on behalf of RCSD employees, BENTE President Dan DiClemente, RAP President Angelina Rivera, ASAR President John Rowe, and RTA President Adam Urbanski wrote that under current circumstances, building administrators don’t have the “ability, staff, or resources” to crease safe school environments.
“This bad situation will only get worse if we do nothing to address and ameliorate it,” the union leaders wrote.
Superintendent Myers-Small released a statement Friday afternoon to acknowledge steps the district will take for student and staff safety.
The superintendent said the district is engaged with the mayor’s office as well as the Rochester Police Department, to discuss assistance to meet short and long term safety goals. She also said the district is request additional School Safety Officers (SSO), counselors, social works, and other social-emotional support resources.
RCSD Superintendent statement on school safety
“I come to you in this week’s video message to talk about the steps the District is taking to address concerns around school safety and social-emotional health.
We have been experiencing an increase in acts of violence occurring in and outside of our schools, some which have made their way onto our campuses. One of my roles as Superintendent is to help to ensure the safety of our students and staff. I have become increasingly concerned about safety and want you to know that I do not take it lightly.
In speaking with my colleagues from across the country, many have shared similar concerns about an increase in violence in their schools and communities. I have been addressing the issue of violence and how it affects our students since early this year. Our schools are impacted directly and indirectly, and it is incumbent on us to ensure mechanisms are in place to provide a safe learning space for all.
I want you to know that we are having ongoing conversations with many different groups. My team and I are listening to concerns raised by the Board of Education, parents, students, staff, and union leaders, and we are working in partnership with all of them to find solutions together. I also receive daily briefings from our Director of School Safety and Security to get a sense of the number, nature, and type of incidents happening in our schools.
We have also engaged the Mayor and the Rochester Police Department to discuss ways they can assist us for both the short and long term. With the number of threatening and violent incidents increasing, it is imperative to include them in the conversation and learn about what they are seeing in our neighborhoods. This week, they are assisting us during arrival and dismissal times at some of our schools. I am not recommending a return of School Resource Officers (SRO) in schools. However, it is important that we continue to look for long-term solutions that will help keep everyone safe.
We are requesting additional School Safety Officers (SSO), counselors, social workers, and other social-emotional supports through the federal government funding set aside to support student needs in the wake of COVID-19. In addition, our Chief of Human Capital is working to address our current staffing shortages and implement recruitment strategies. If each of us recruits for one position, we can impact our staffing shortage.
Our children are hurting, and some of their behaviors are coming out in ways that are challenging. Far too many of our students experience trauma every day. The violence that is surrounding us must end and together we must work to find solutions. I am extremely grateful for our staff members who show up every day to our schools to ensure our students have a place where they are educated, nurtured, and loved. I realize many days can be challenging and I assure you that together we will find resolve to this issue. Our students need us now more than ever. We all need to check in and connect with them, as we know that the effects of the pandemic continue to impact us all.”
A teacher in the Rochester City School District says she was sexually assaulted by a student earlier this month at Franklin High School.
According to the president of the Rochester Teachers Association, district officials said the student was suspended, but the district ultimately determined she could not be held liable for the incident due to her disabilities.
“I was failed by my workplace and again by my city,” Corrine Mundorff wrote in a post dated October 21, “I have nowhere left to turn.”
According to Mundorff, she was preparing to teach a high school English class when a 14-year-old freshman ran into her classroom and hid behind her desk.
“He was clearly afraid of something and came to my room because everyone knows my room is a safe place,” she wrote.
Mundorff said a student she had never seen before came into her room seconds later and began punching the freshman. She said when she separated the students, the attacker ran out of the room and down the hall.
“My room is at the end of a hallway, so I could only go in one direction,” she wrote, “the same way the aggressor just went. All I kept thinking was that I needed to get help.”
Mundorff said the student turned and spit on her in the hallway, while dozens of other students watched. She said the student shoved her and spit on her more as others took out their phones to record the incident.
“I repeatedly told them not to put their hands on me, to stop spitting on me, and that I was not following them, but looking for security,” Mundorff wrote. “I had my attacker on one side and a wall of students on the other.”
That’s when Mundorff said she was sexually assaulted.
“My attacker placed both of their hands on my breasts, fondled me for approximately 30 seconds, and then shoved me and spit on me,” she wrote. “They did it again, this time for at least a minute.”
Mundorff said there were “hundreds” of students watching by that point.
She said when a security officer got to the scene, they did not restrain the student, who Mundorff said punched her in the head multiple times. She said that set off a large fight between multiple groups of students.
“Luckily a fellow teacher physically shielded me and moved me to the main office,” she wrote.
Mundorff said she called 911 at 12:20 p.m. She said no officers came to the school, so she went to the Public Safety Building at 3 p.m. She said she was not able to file a police report until 6 p.m.
She said that’s when police told her “Well you know, you guys did pull the police officers out of the schools so …”
“Somehow, because my School Board voted to remove police officers from our schools, I was at fault for my own attack,” Mundorff wrote. “I am enraged that I was treated as somehow ‘less’ of a victim by the police because of things I have no control over.”
Mundorff said she wrote about the incident after learning the student involved would not be suspended.
“Today I decided that someone needed to hear my story. That I will not be denied basic human dignity at my workplace,” she wrote.
Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski told News 8 the district said the student was initially suspended, until district officials ultimately determined she could not be held liable due to disabilities.
Union leaders in the district have been pushing for increased safety efforts in Rochesterschools recently. Urbanski said the district has 14 pending resignations and 80 total resignations mainly due to what he said were dangerous environments in schools.
“We’re not going to let them get away with this,” Urbanski said. “We’re worried that in this volatile situation this sends a message to other students that you can do whatever you want and get away with it.”
“I’m asking you to hear me, hear teachers when they are crying out for help,” Mundorff wrote. “I was sexually assaulted at work and deserve to be heard.”
News 8 has reached out to the Rochester City School District and Rochester Police Department for comment. They did not immediately return a request for comment.
In an update Friday, Rochester Police Department officials confirmed an investigation into this alleged incident was “very active.” RPD officials released a statement, saying in part:
“This is a very active case and the RPD is well into it. It is not our practice to discuss details on an open and active cases. There are many moving parts to this case and will require a bit more time to complete the investigation. We will let the media know as much as possible as it progresses.”
Rochester police officials say the correct terminology regarding the investigation is “forcible touching,” per letter of the law.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.