Last night (Tuesday) around 11:30pm the Rye Board of Education released the following statement about the alledged hazing incident in Rye. This was after we posted Leaders in Rye: Do We Have Any?. We think the timing in coincidental, but we welcome the Board's comments and are ready to add the voices of other leaders in Rye to these pages.
Although the Board cannot specifically discuss the alleged facts and circumstances surrounding recent reports of alleged hazing and other unlawful acts involving certain Rye students, the Board feels it is important to communicate its views with respect to this important topic so that there is no misunderstanding concerning the Board's position on the current topic of discussion in Rye.
The deplorable act allegedly perpetrated by a handful of students has not been, is not and never will be behavior endorsed by this Board or the District. While some have referred to this activity as a tradition, Dr. Shine is absolutely right when he states that just because a handful of students call it a 'tradition' we should not, and will not, dignify the alleged conduct in this manner. It is important to note that this is a police matter that occurred off campus. There should be no question that the District is fully in control of the safety of its students on campus and at school activities.
Rye High School has 895 students and thankfully, it appears that almost all of our students have chosen to do the right thing as opposed to the alleged activity that has been reported. It would be unfair to tarnish the well-deserved reputation of our High School and its students based on the actions of a very few.
The community should know that, where appropriate, reported incidents of bullying and/or hazing have been and will continue to be referred to the Rye Police Department immediately and addressed by the District. Those involved will be disciplined to the fullest extent permissible under the District's Code of Conduct and we expect, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is the Board's hope that such a response, coupled with the District's continued efforts to educate the students and the school community about this topic, will go a long way towards preventing this type of alleged conduct from ever happening again.
Parents are a child's first teacher. We encourage parents to discuss this matter with their children in an ongoing manner, and to patiently correct misguided thinking about these activities. It is not 'okay' for the conduct that has been reported to happen in homes, in neighborhoods, in schools in Rye or anywhere else for that matter. Even the threat of such behavior is abhorrent. The spotlight should be on Rye for all the things our students do so well, not because of the alleged aberrant behavior of certain individuals who in no way represent this community.
With parent support, our schools have made enormous efforts, at all levels, to share the problem of bullying and to educate to change behavior. On July 1st, the Dignity for All Students Act becomes law in the State of New York, with a refined focus on the elimination of bullying behaviors in our schools. The law requires an increased effort to train staff and educate students. As a school district, we resolve to do even more to help the message resonate that any such bullying or hazing behaviors are completely unacceptable and that they thoroughly contradict the dignity and respect for students we nurture on a daily basis. Let us clearly state our moral position: this behavior is wrong and it will not be tolerated! The District will do everything within its power to continue to get this message out to parents and students in order to meet its moral and legal obligations to students, parents and community.
As the Board of Education, we stand with all our students; that is our Mission...but, in this instance, we stand first with the alleged victims and their physical and emotional well-being. We ask all parents or students who have information on this alleged incident to please come forward to the police and district officials as part of our community-wide effort to address this matter. This includes any intimidation and threats of retaliation.
Finally, the Board wishes to reiterate that hazing, bullying or any other similar conduct has no place in the school setting or in our community. Such conduct will be addressed swiftly and those responsible will be dealt with to the fullest extent possible under applicable law and Board policy.
The Rye City School District Board of Education