ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Violence across the country has been a national talking point, particularly as we emerged from the pandemic, with the City of Rochester seeing some of the deadliest years in its history. This has also impacted the youth in schools, and violence continues to be a barrier for students in the classroom.

Ruth Turner is the Deputy Superintendent for RCSD. She said many tend to ‘normalize’ violence in urban settings… and that narrative needs to change. So, what are they doing about it? Turner said a variety of things. 

The key, says Turner, is to ensure kids feel safe and are able to socialize and relax. Many of the schools have expanded opportunities– whether that’s joining a club or other after-school activities. 

There’s also a ‘Roc-Restorative Team’ that works to train the students on how to build a community, enhance relationships, and find ways to resolve issues other than violence. Many times she said violence is a way of acting out when something is wrong with a student, a cry for help… and they want to focus on the root causes of what’s going on.

Emotional well-being is a major player in all this, and she says they have added resources: they have increased social workers, with a little over one hundred in schools.

“So, we’ve increased our social work staff, so we have social workers in the district — right now I think maybe about 100 or a little over who are licensed master social workers or licensed clinical social workers, so these are the same individuals in the community– in the mental health agencies– that provide those services to our students. You have school counselors in every one of our buildings, we also have community partners who work alongside with us to help us provide additional support,” said Turner.

The key she said is prevention. 

“And we’re also thinking about not just reacting to the need, but also being preventative. So we have (the) Roc Restorative Team who helps to train the students around ‘how do we build community’, right? What are some ways to resolve issues without the use of violence or how do we use proactive social skills to engage each other? And that’s a preventative end so that you’re not making the choice you have other options besides violence, you’re able to talk it through, you’re able to circle up.”

Turner said there are also teams of school counselors in every one of the RCSD buildings. Turner added the University of Rochester and the Center for Youth are also helping out with mental health needs to ensure RCSD is reaching as many students as possible.