RCSD: 6 teachers put on leave after text message exchange goes public

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) – Six teachers at School 17 in Rochester are on leave after a series of text messages were exposed calling students names—and in one instance—saying they hate some students.

The mother of a student says students found the text chain Friday.

The teachers met with students and parents Monday and again Wednesday. The district calls those “restorative circles,” face-to-face meetings meant to bring those who are harmed and those who did the harming together to see if they can resolve the problem.

Superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small says she found out about the texts on Tuesday. She says she saw screenshots of the texts.

The teachers were put on leave Thursday.

Jennifer Lopez met with reporters at her home late Friday afternoon. Her daughter goes to School 17. Lopez shared screenshots of the texts with News10NBC Friday morning.

“I understand, they’re teenagers, they might get under your skin and stuff. But for these messages to be out, I mean you guys (the teachers) are grown. You’re supposed to be an example. You’re supposed to be someone they look up to and someone they can trust,” Lopez said.

Another text talks about having to decontaminate after leaving the school.

Most texts include language that we can’t share on the broadcast—words used to describe students.

I asked Jennifer Lopez how her daughter is doing.

“We’re talking about going to therapy. She doesn’t even want to be there. She’s been home since I found out about the incident,” Lopez said.

“We want something done. This is a very serious matter and it’s not going to be swept under the rug. This is very serious. And we are asking the school District to make your move and you better make it soon,“ said great grandmother Maudine Brown.

Lopez says when she met with the teachers she says they admitted to the texts.

News10NBC reached out to the Rochester Teachers Association for comment and were provided with the following response:

“Everyone, and especially our students, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. And everyone is entitled to due process. The allegations against some teachers at School #17 are currently under investigation. That is why we are constrained from commenting further until all the facts are in and the investigation is concluded.”

Dr. Myers-Small couldn’t say how long this investigation is going to take place.

“It’s important for all of us to know that words and language certainly do matter. Any type of behavior or mindset that is used to humiliate or devalue our scholars is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our district,” Dr. Myers-Small said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

In a statement issued Friday, Superintendent Leslie Myers-Small said in part, “I am horrified at the racist and demeaning references and language used to describe children…our children!” The statement indicated the district will use “all forms of available discipline up to and including termination.”