Last week’s article about school bullying recounts a serious incident in Cooperstown High School (by no means the first), but it begins – and exists – at much earlier levels, as parents and administrators of the lower grades will verify.
This is a problem that needs to be addressed prophylactically and at multiple levels, by parents talking to their own children, by teachers and administrators, and by health care providers.
They need to talk to each other, and to the kids, on an ongoing basis, and not just once. The students are right to ask: What are they doing? All of them? All of us?
COOPERSTOWN – While contemplating how to respond to a student’s beating and the furor it evoked, Cooperstown Central School Superintendent Bill Crankshaw got some welcome good news.
After a four-year wait, CCS received word Monday, June 17, it has received $500,000 in state Smart School Bond money intended for security and infrastructure improvements in the schools.
“It’s great news and it’s a relief,” said Crankshaw.
It means the district has funds to help assuage parents’ and students’ safety concerns after two high school students allegedly called a classmate a “f—-t” and kicked and beat him.
Parents and students packed a Cooperstown PTA meeting on Tuesday, June 11, and a school board one Thursday, June 13, some upset at school administrators’ handling of the alleged attack and bullying prevention, in general.
Of the half-million dollars, $240,000 will be used to install security cameras campus-wide “in areas that have the most traffic and potential for safety concerns” and about $70,000 will go to installing “a new centralized proximity-reader system connected to the security camera system,” according to CCS’ Smart School Bond’s Plan Summary in using the funds.
COOPERSTOWN – Following up on last night’s PTA meeting, CCS Superintendent Bill Crankshaw plans to put together a document with information on the school district’s current programs and policies and future ones “to combat harassment, bullying and discrimination.”
“Because of conversations with students, clergy, and parents on areas that they would like to see addressed,” he said. “I can assure you that moving forward, the timeline for reflecting on and doing the work is immediately.”
“We’re asking you to take better care of the students and then we’ll trust you more.”
Cooperstown Central School’s PTA Co-President Tabetha Rathbone’s remarks to school board members and administrators echoed what 60-plus plus parents and students said in a packed Cooperstown Elementary School’s library Tuesday, June 11.
However, School Super-intendent Bill Crankshaw said he isn’t sure what the school district will do next.
The PTA meeting offered the first forum to discuss bullying since two high school students reportedly insulted and beat a student they perceived as gay, recording it on a cellphone.
On June 3, the PTA sent an email reiterating it is committed to “ensuring a safe, inclusive school environment for all students” and invited teachers, parents, administration and students to attend the meeting and “discuss the issue in an open forum.”
However, the PTA officers, teachers and Crankshaw cautioned they could not discuss a “specific incident” of bullying, especially names of students involved, because that information was confidential.
“We are here to protect everyone, staff and students,” Crankshaw said. “I will say publicly, though, we are taking things very seriously.”
Parents and students said they’re concerned the school administrators isn’t doing enough, especially in assuaging students’ fears that they are being ignored.
One student said, “I was afraid on the day of the incident it would get pushed to the back burner, then we’d get a tepid response, and nothing would change.”
“We all know there was an incident. We want to know there was a follow-up,” said Lizzie Cooper, the PTA’s press liaison. “What are you going to do next?”
Another parent, who did not want her name cited, said, “We have no confidence in the administration. How do we know you have my kids’ back?”
Several parents urged school administrators to address the student body and to make a “strong statement, so the kids know the grownups are protecting them.” But Crankshaw said he had not decided yet whether or not he would hold such a meeting.
“We follow up reports of discipline problems according to our Code of Conduct, which has five different levels of intervention depending on the situation,” Crankshaw said.
“One level is lunch detention, another is after school detention, and then it increases to after-school suspension and expulsion.”
He cautioned that all sorts of factors were involved that people are unaware of.
COOPERSTOWN –Two weeks after high school boys allegedly attacked another student and shouted homophobic slurs, the Cooperstown Board of Trustees voted in its meeting this morning “unanimously and loudly” to strengthen a 2016 proclamation that the village welcomes people of all backgrounds and does not tolerate acts of bigotry.
“I think it’s important to reiterate how much we in Cooperstown deplore racist and homophobic behavior,” said Richard Sternberg, one of the Trustees who spearheaded the action and vote. “I found it very heartening we did this.”
COOPERSTOWN – Last week, a 15-year-old Cooperstown High School student was arrested and charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, for allegedly assaulting a student.
According to Trooper Aga Dembinska, Troop C public information officer, the student, whose name is being withheld because of his age, was issued a ticket to appear in family court. The case, Dembinska said, is closed.
According to a post on the Cooperstown Speaks Facebook group, the alleged incident, happened May 30 at the school.
COOPERSTOWN – The Cooperstown PTA will hold an open comment session during tonight’s meeting to allow parents to share concerns about an alleged bullying incident where a student was beaten and called homophobic slurs in the high school hallway in May.
Board President Marcy Birch declined to elaborate on the incident, citing an “ongoing disciplinary matter.” The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the school.