RCSD unions call for additional security measures as crime at schools increase

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Staff in the Rochester City School District don’t feel safe, according to union representatives.

The heads of four employee unions are calling for more safety measures, including physical barriers outside schools and a greater police presence in parking lots. They’re also calling for better lighting and surveillance cameras, more security personnel and more social/emotional support services.

The union heads got together with Dr. Carmine Peluso on Monday to announce some of the progress they’ve already made, including some concrete barriers outside buildings, and some enhanced security cameras.

“Our community needs to be very clear, this behavior on our campus, cannot be acceptable,” said Peluso, referring to an incident a few weeks ago outside Franklin High School. An SUV drove all over the front lawn, sending students running for safety.

“Right now at Franklin, we’re doing some additional fortifying the grounds to make sure nobody can get access and drive on the barriers of the campus,” said Peluso. The money for the barriers comes from the district’s Healthy Fund Balance, he said.

President of the Rochester Teacher’s Association Adam Urbanski said it’s not enough. He’s calling for more security, districtwide.

Full List of “Joint Recommendations” on Safety:

  • Greater presence and visibility of Rochester Police near city schools, parking lots
  • Security personnel at every district parking lot
  • “Adequate” lighting, and surveillance cameras at every district parking lot
  • Security gates and fencing at every RCSD school parking lot
  • Hold administrator/teacher meetings remotely
  • District negotiations with BENTE union recruitment, retention incentives, increase for hourly pay rates for security personnel
  • District revises its current Student Code of Conduct to ensure, “logical consequences for criminal behavior at school premises”
  • District increases social, emotional support services for students, add remote learning options, strengthen alternative settings for students who need additional support

The full list is signed by union reps from RAP (Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals), BENTE (Board of Education Non-Teaching Employees), ASAR (Association of Supervisors and Administrators of Rochester) and RTA.

“But there are also deeper problems here, that are not immediately solvable,” said Urbanski. “For example, convincing our children, that there are consequences for criminal behavior, I don’t mean punishing, I mean convincing them that there are consequences.”

Urbanski said since January teachers have reported theft, stolen cars, or vandalism 75 times. He said that number doesn’t include reports of intimidation, harassments and assault he’s heard from colleagues.

“The students cannot learn because we are stressed out when we are not in our best position to teach,” said Angelina Rivera, RAP President.

Meantime, Peluso said they have taken action to ensure more support staff in the buildings, with 30 new counselors, and a few new social workers. He said the goal is to ensure students have a reason to come to school, and a reason to want to be there.

“Connected to their school, right they feel they are a part of the school community, they’re not just coming to come in for the start of the day, they’re participating in clubs, enrichment,” he said.

Urbanski said 139 teachers quit in the middle of the year last year, mostly due to stress and burnout.