‘We can’t stay silent’: Teachers disappointed by RCSD plan to address school safety

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — After the Rochester City School District released its plan to address safety at schools, teachers are speaking up about their thoughts.

Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small released the plan Wednesday after reports of violence among students and staff. It includes a number of different measures, including bringing more mental and emotional health services to schools, addressing ongoing staffing shortages, and having additional security measures in place.

However, some RCSD teachers say the plan doesn’t go far enough. 

Kyle Crandall said many of the things in the plan, are already in place in some shape or form. 

“I’m not at all suggesting that the district was negligent on having a plan, there is a plan. But when a plan isn’t working, you have to make adjustments,” Crandall said. “We need a new game plan and we need to make some significant changes to that game plan in order to be able to serve our kids who are desperately hurting right now.”

Maureen Doohan, an elementary teacher, said the solutions were “band-aids on a gaping wound.”

“We aren’t going to resolve these issues without taking a hard, honest look at what is causing them,” Doohan added.

Crandall has been teaching in the Rochester City School District for 24 years and he says what we’re seeing in schools right now isn’t normal. 

“Kids are losing their lives. Kids are being shot at while waiting for a bus. We can’t stay silent about that,” he said.

Crandall said the disruptive behavior and violence impacts both students and staff, making it harder for them to learn and teach.

 “Students are scared, they’re scared to come to school, they’re scared at times when they are in school. And for those of us that are educators, that is just not the way how school should be,” Crandall said. “If you don’t feel like you or your friends can be safe, you’re 100% correct. How are they going to be able to really sit in the classroom and be prepared for learning?”

Doohan said students are hurting and the district needs to address that hurt.

“Our students deserve better. There was nothing in the plan that addressed targeted, intense remediation for the anger and frustration so many of our scholars are obviously feeling. Until our students stop hurting they will continue to hurt others, both physically and emotionally,” Doohan said.

A few weeks ago, four union leaders representing RCSD employees released a list of 11 measures they said would increase safety in schools. The list included things like having smaller class sizes and adding officers back on school grounds, but Crandall says those ideas haven’t been taken seriously enough. 

“If someone were to come on any of our campuses armed, any of our campuses armed, what is the plan? What’s the plan to keep our staff members and our students safe? I don’t see it. I don’t see it anywhere,” Crandall said.

He also said he’d like to see alternative learning options for students who continue to show disruptive behavior and are impacting other’s ability to learn.

“We have kids who come to school, and it seems as though, it’s a very small number, but it seems as though their only goal is to disrupt the educational environment in school. And we’ve suggested still supplying an education for them, but in a different setting. Maybe an evening school, you know if the remote situation doesn’t work, let’s set up an evening school and have them get their classes in the evening,” Crandall said. 

Crandall added he hopes there’s more mental and emotional support services offered for students and staff.

“I’ve seen it, I’ve been in other buildings, I know what they’re going through…the social emotional supports are very lacking.” Crandall said. 

To address safety at schools, Crandall says it’s not just up to the district.

“We are calling out to our leadership, we’re calling out to members of school board, we’re calling out to district leadership. I’ll go a step further… we’re calling out to city council members,” Crandall said. “I don’t understand why it’s those of us on the front line that are the only ones that are outraged. Our leaders need to be as outraged as we are. We need to work together, we need to come up with some solutions.”

Superintendent Myers-Small says the district plans to address the ongoing challenges at schools this Saturday at Franklin High School from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They will be launching a Community Action Initiative to come up with solutions to help. 

News 8 did reach out to the superintendent to speak on her new plan, but she was not available Thursday. 

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