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City schools to increase security measures amid uptick in violence near campuses

James Brown
WXXI News file photo

The Rochester City School District is increasing security measures at schools across the district in response to an uptick in violent incidents outside of schools.

Superintendent Carmine Peluso said in a school board meeting Thursday that the new measures include upgrading security equipment like x-ray scanners and wand metal detectors. And increasing staffing for school security officers.

“In the last few years, we've seen a rise in teen homicide and violence,” Peluso said. “This is affecting our students both in their neighborhoods and at school. I'm most concerned that the violence is right outside of our school buildings and most recently on our doorstep. I hear the concern from our students and staff on the impact violence is having. This is a community issue that requires everyone to do their part.”

Community member Clay Harris spoke in front of the school board on Thursday. He urged the members to address every aspect of violence intervention and community building they can to halt the current trend of violence involving youth.

“If we don't start to deal with the foundational issues of what's occurring, we're going to lose another generation,” said Harris, the founder of Uniting and Healing Through Hope of Monroe County, a community service and anti-violence group.

Earlier on Thursday, Rochester police reported that a staff member at School 54 was carjacked by a group of teenagers in the school parking lot, one of whom allegedly brandished a knife. RPD said they later recovered the vehicle near Cameron Street and took five youths into custody.

A spokesperson with the district said she cannot comment on an open investigation, but that the district’s current focus is supporting the staff member.

Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski said teachers at the school shared with him their concerns about safety following the incident, and that Superintendent Peluso has been responsive.

"I think the superintendent wants to ameliorate this problem, as we all do,” Urbanski said. “And we have to somehow give all the staff and all the students and families reason to believe that everything is being done to keep everyone safe. Or else I think people will start being even more reluctant to come to our schools either to learn or to teach.”

Urbanski said it’s time for everyone to tap into their expertise and find ways to meet the needs of people who are perpetrating violence, and those who are victimized.

“There is never a good reason for violence,” Urbanski said. “But when young people commit violence in large numbers, we have to ask ourselves what we as adults need to do more, or differently, so that this does not become par for the course.”

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.