Hudson Valley school districts make changes to combat rise in violence

This year, school districts across the Hudson Valley are making changes to meet the growing social and emotional needs of students.

Blaise Gomez

Sep 1, 2022, 10:17 PM

Updated 589 days ago

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2022 was a year no one could have predicted. The violence seen in our communities across the nation was also seen in our schools. 
News 12 reported on multiple incidents caught on video as concerned parents came forward in shock about the behavior among our young people in places that are supposed to be safe. 
Students were repeatedly seen attacking each other in bathrooms, on the bus and even on the way home.  
A Spring Valley teenage student was arrested in a stabbing during a fight at dismissal. 
In Mount Vernon, the violence proved deadly for 16-year-old JV cheerleading captain Kayla Green, who was killed during a stabbing following an off-campus school athletic parade. Another student was severely injured. 
“It was a series of disconnects from adults not adulting, to coaches not being taken seriously by various levels of bureaucracy,” said Rich Thomas, a spokesperson for the Green family. 
“When Kayla was taken away, killed to put it bluntly, they were advocating for the school to do something,” said Thomas. “The attitude of it’s not my responsibility must be checked.” 
This year, school districts across the Hudson Valley are taking that to heart and making changes to meet the growing social and emotional needs of students. 
“Whenever something happens, you always have to evaluate your protocols and policies that you have in place,” said Waveline Bennet-Conroy, Mount Vernon superintendent of schools. “We did that because we want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.” 
Bennet-Conroy is one of three school superintendents News 12 interviewed. 
All of them are new in their roles as former administrators resigned and Hudson Valley families demanded change. 
“We have to do things different,” said Middletown School Superintendent Amy Creeden. “If we didn’t learn anything from COVID, it would’ve been a lost experience for us.” 
“I think the boldest step is really going to be addressing the social-emotional,” said Marc Baiocco, Clarkstown school superintendent. “There’s a kindness piece in the ‘Wellness Wednesdays,’ which are really promoting the empathy component. Understanding again, if you have disagreements that there’s ways and actions to go about carrying yourself and coming up with an equitable understanding.” 
Mount Vernon, Middletown and Clarkstown schools are all adding social and emotional support programs to the school day this year. 
They’re also adding more social workers and counselors to better help students on a day-to-day basis and to immediately recognize any challenges they may be facing. 
Mount Vernon expects to add SROs in schools, and Middletown High School is adding a second officer to the building. 
Clarkstown already has security and SROs in place. 
In Middletown, efforts to curb social media-driven violence this year by banning cellphones in schools made headlines over the summer.  
“We found at this point that cellphones are becoming a bit of a distraction. So, we are going to spend a lot more time working on helping our young people build the foundational academic skills and really develop a sense of who they are,” said Creeden. 
"There’s been a lot of changes since COVID, and it makes us realize that we need to change our policies and thinking and what we do,” said Bennet-Conroy. 
Newburgh also saw an uptick in violence in schools last year, resulting in several student arrests. 
News 12 reached out to the district to speak to their new superintendent about what steps are being taken to combat violence but didn't hear back.  


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