Jamestown Public Schools Must Deal With Violence Created In Part By Society’s Failings

We understand the frustration felt by Emylia Hallberg and Aubrey Reynolds, student members of the Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education.

The community is just as frustrated.

Hallberg and Reynolds expressed concerns for students and staff safety after a handful of violent incidents recently, both off of school grounds, that involved youth and resulted in some of those youth being hospitalized.

“With the recent issues of fights, and all the stabbings, it’s kind of causing an uneasy feeling in the school,” Reynolds said during this week’s school board meeting.

The district can, and should, do all it can to make sure the school’s buildings are safe for students. A Safety Committee has been discussed, but Dr. Kevin Whitaker, district superintendent, said there has been little community interest in serving on the committee between violent incidents last fall and again this month. Those with concerns should volunteer for the committee — and that committee should include students interested in being part of the solution as well.

But the district can only do so much. Patrick Slagle, board vice president, noted the district has further secured access to schools, implemented Red Shirt Program, hired new school resource officers and has hired more social workers and increased access to mental health services for students.

In our opinion, though, a Safety Committee and the conversations it generates could help find new ways the district can assuage the anxiety students are feeling.

A bigger part of this is societal — and that is something the school board has no control over. It can expel students who commit violence both inside and outside of school, but it can’t impose punishment on youth who are no longer students. New York’s 2017 Raise the Age law prevents anyone under the age of 18 from being prosecuted as an adult, instead sending those youth to Family Court.

It’s possible youth are acting out because they no longer fear harsher punishment for their actions. New York City Mayor Eric Adams certainly thinks so.

“We can’t normalize this. We can’t continue to ignore the violence that is really engulfing our young people,” Adams said recently after a 13-year-old opened fire at a Queens high school. “If we don’t intervene, they are on a pathway of a career in violence, and we have to stop it.”


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