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Meetings continue today as Hudson city schools confront ongoing violence

Hudson City School District
Social Media / Composite image by Dave Lucas

An uptick in student violence and bullying at Hudson High School is affecting students, parents and teachers.

At last Wednesday night's meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education, teachers and some parents demanded changes after videos circulated on social media showed students participating in bullying.

One video appears to show a boy being stabbed by a girl after he attempted to break up a fight.

"My concern is they first have to acknowledge the severity of the situation," said Brianna Conte, the boy's mother. "They downplay the scenarios a lot, you know, with the quote, unquote, attempted stabbing motion that occurred, you know, I've seen the videos, my son's had the videos, that was the incident in which my son intervened. You know, it wasn't an attempted stabbing. I mean, she did stab them, she made contact with the pencil. They based the conclusion on the fact that there were no puncture wounds. Well, in the video, I could actually tell that it was a mechanical pencil without even seeing it, because you can hear it, you know, when she hits him with it."

The Hudson Teachers Association supports a ban against student cell phone use. City Mayor Kamal Johnson has a child at the school.

"I think limiting them is important," Johnson said. "But I know there's times where I have to reach out to my daughter just to find out when she's getting picked up for a certain after school event, or anything like that. Or if I just need to get quick information to her. I think they are abusing cell phone use? Yes. So there definitely needs to be some tuning up, but all out banning, I just wouldn't agree with."

In a letter to district families Thursday, Hudson superintendent Dr. Lisamarie Spindler wrote that the district is “committed” to improving school safety and would implement new crisis preparedness, violence prevention, and anti-bullying measures. Conte is incredulous.

"Her talking a lot about programs she's putting in place for the teachers to learn how to better interact with the students. I'm not a teacher, but I certainly find that insulting to all those teachers that have been there and have devoted their lives to the district," Conte said. "It's not a matter of the teachers escalating these issues, it's not a matter of these teachers not knowing how to deescalate situation, it's a matter of the teachers not having any power to enforce any level of discipline within the district."

The school district is conducting a series of focus groups with staff, students, parents and community members. The first were held today at the high school library.

Conte says 90% of the people who attended last week's board meeting were teachers or employees of the district, and the remainder concerned parents.

"And a lot of the parents that were there were not the parents of the children that are causing the continuous problems," said Conte. "Parents do not take accountability, parents do not get involved. You know, Spindler told me herself that the day the student was, quote, unquote, attempted to be stabbed, when she contacted the child's parents that was doing the attack, the parent refused to come get the child, she didn't want anything to do with the situation. That's a problem. Because if parents aren't even holding their children accountable, how much can the school really do?"

Board members voted to hire a public relations firm to communicate with parents and the press, a move Johnson questions as a parent and a citizen of Hudson.

"It's a waste of money," Johnson said. "You know, I really would just like to see them lean into the community organizations who already have relationships with the kids and the families, especially those that are harder to reach for the school district or other organizations. I think, you know, paying a firm, almost $200 an hour to basically have PR work with families. I don't think that it's the step in the right direction.”

Neither Superintendent Spindler nor any Board of Education members were available for comment. The Hudson Teachers Association did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.