Over 30 people attended the Jamestown School Board meeting with 13 speaking to the board with concerns about school safety and bullying.
The concerns were raised following a parent speaking at the October 11 School Board meeting about a bullying incident that was captured on video and shared on social media.
Parent Jennifer Buck, who has children at Persell and the High School, said every student should have to read and sign the district’s Code of Conduct. She also said the bullying of student is “out of control,” “My children have come home and spoke about how kids have made fun of their weight, their eyebrows, their skin condition. My daughter has been told to kill herself multiple times at Persell Middle School already this year. Have I reported these? No. Should I have? Yes, but my kids have begged me not to do so because it would make more harm than good. It makes it worse. I’m sure there is more they aren’t telling me because they know now is enough and I’m not being quiet. I just want my children, all children, to go to school, be safe, get the education they need to guide them through the rest of their lives.”
Parent Carla Gonzalez said the schools and students are facing challenges that require more than reactive efforts. She said parents at the meeting want protection for their children, “Specifically, with the installation of metal detectors and door sensors at all entrances of JHS. As the Board of Education, you could not expect a music class to be successful without instruments. You would not expect a math class to be as effective without calculators. You would not expect a basketball team to win without balls. Please do not expect our schools to remain secure without the proper equipment that can enhance the safety of our children.”
Tamu Graham-Reinhardt, who works for the Jamestown School District as its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, spoke up as a resident, saying that support is needed from the community, “And your frustrations are valid and I want to acknowledge them. I would also ask that if you are interested in being part of the solution, then we all should get together. I know that there was a survey that was put out and we should talk and look at problem solving. We are reviewing the Code of Conduct, so thank you for bringing that up. We are reviewing the Code of Conduct. I’m part of the committee. And anyone else, I would ask to come do that because it needs to be examined.”
Most of the speakers Tuesday night requested metal detectors be considered for school buildings.
Superintendent Dr. Kevin Whitaker said student safety and security has been taken very seriously over the two years he’s served as Superintendent of the district. He said that includes reinstating School Resource Officers, initiating a Threat Assessment Protocol, and hiring a Safety and Security Supervisor, “..Have been running emergency drills and crisis teams, attending workshops on the various emerging technology for detection and monitoring; developing a capital project that creates secure vestibules in all buildings – adding those to Persell and to the High School. Installing alarms for doors at the High School, making improvements and upgrades to cameras and entry credentialing, installing ten-foot fencing at the High School and bollards behind the High School to restrict vehicle traffic.”
Whitaker said the internal Safety and Security Committee will be expanded to include staff, teachers, students, parents, and community members, “We will review all of the available options for us. And we will make a recommendation. This is how the work of a community is done – effort, research, collaboration, communication, hearing different opinions and positions, and coming to a resolution that includes input from all constituent groups. That is what we want our kids to see as a model. This is how we can conquer any seemingly insurmountable issue.”
Whitaker said that the Safety and Security Committee will discuss if metal detectors are part of the solution and if the community is willing to deal with the ancillary consequences of that whether it’s the cost of the equipment, extra staff, or time involved with students going through the detection system.
He added that feedback can also be submitted anonymously to jpsny.org/feedback. He said that page also will give people the option to sign up for the Safety and Security Committee. QR codes are available at the High School for reports to be submitted anonymously as well.
In other business, the Jamestown School Board accepted bids totaling $500,155 to contract with Kinley Corporation, Mazza Mechanical Services, Inc., and Ahlstrom-Schaeffer to construct the Secure Entry Vestibule at Persell Middle School. This capital project had been approved by voters in 2021. Whitaker said that project is expected to be completed by Spring.