Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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Lonsberry: WHY IS ROCHESTER SO VIOLENT?

Why is Rochester so violent?

 

               More specifically, why is Rochester so much more violent than cities which are demographically, economically and culturally similar to it?

 

               What is the variable? What is different about Rochester that leads to this anomalous outcome?

 

               And it is anomalous.

 

               Yes, urban America is a killing field. There is a national crisis in the culture of our cities, to such an extent that the conventional definition of “society” no longer applies.

 

               But it is worse in Rochester. Statistics show that. When you are among the 10 most deadly places in a nation of more than 300 million people, you’ve got a particular problem.

 

               That’s most pointedly true when you compare Rochester to its neighboring cities in upstate New York. Yes, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Utica and Albany do all suffer from the pro-criminal policies of the dominant Democratic Party, and that endangers New Yorkers statewide. But even within the context of New York’s governmental malfeasance, Rochester stands out.

 

               Apologists point to racism and poverty and segregation, describing Rochester’s crime as the consequence of outside affliction, not internal dysfunction. The problem there is that Syracuse, which has higher rates of childhood poverty and racial segregation, has a dramatically lower homicide rate. Buffalo, with older and more entrenched patterns of impoverished black neighborhoods, is also statistically much safer.

 

               Which gets back to the question: Why is Rochester so violent?

 

               What is different about Rochester? What exists in Rochester that doesn’t exist in other New York or American cities?

 

               What is the variable?

 

               I wonder if it’s the school district.

 

               Specifically, I wonder if it’s the progressive and racially charged approach to discipline and conduct that has defined the Rochester City School District over the last many years.

 

               For almost a generation, there has been no discipline in Rochester schools. Teachers and administrators who have tried to discipline students have been disciplined themselves, or chased from the district. The philosophy has been that students are victims of a racist society and justice system and that the schools should be a refuge from that.

 

               Bad behavior has been chalked up to trauma and cultural difference, and disciplinary problems with students have been ascribed to teachers who lacked “cultural competence.” Many administrators, selected to advance a cultural and demographic identity, have seen discipline as an oppression largely arising from white teachers and principals being antagonistic toward black students.

 

               Syracuse and Buffalo – whose city school districts are demographically similar to Rochester – welcome and cooperate with school resource officers provided by their city police departments. Rochester kicked resource officers out of its buildings and requires the police department to negotiate with the district administration before even temporarily placing officers outside schools during times of particular violence and upset.

 

               Over the years, I have been repeatedly contacted by Rochester teachers who see individual students spiraling violently out of control only to find the administration covering for them and excusing their behavior. As recently as this week I have heard from teachers who have seen one of their former problem students charged in a city homicide.

 

By contrast, after covering Syracuse for more than a decade, I have never had a teacher in that city district similarly reach out to me on the subject of student discipline.

 

               In Rochester, students – particularly black students – are not disciplined. They are denied that important aspect of their education. Nonsensical substitutions like “restorative justice” and “peace circles” spew forth from ridiculously overpaid senior administrators, but there is no true correction and guidance.

 

               And that is different. It is ahead of the progressive curve.

 

               And it is poison.

 

               In the lives of the misserved students, and in the community they call home.

 

               The Rochester City School District refuses to teach its students that actions have consequences, that neighbors are brothers, and that bad conduct is wrong. It has raised a generation with a disproportionately high percentage of violent people, young men and women who savage one another, often in ruthless and deadly ways.

 

               Poverty is everywhere, out-of-wedlock birth is everywhere, segregation is everywhere, bad laws are everywhere, racism is everywhere.

 

               But the Rochester City School District is here.

 

               And so is some of the worst violence in the nation.

 

               And I don’t think that’s a coincidence.


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