A fight club at Mont Pleasant Middle School wants to get money from YouTube for posting videos of fights, gang investigator LeRoy Fogle said at Wednesday’s forum on problems at the school.
Fogle, a panelist at the forum, was hired by the Schenectady City School District to look into gang connections relating to the many fights during and after school. He said he’s learned students are trying to get 1 million views on YouTube because they think they can get ad revenue from the site.
YouTube commonly invites posters to become “partners” if they get many views on a video. Partners allow YouTube to put ads in their videos, and then get paid a percentage of the ad revenue. YouTube’s rules prohibit videos of fights, but such videos are common on the site.
Fogle said his next step is to figure out who came up with the YouTube revenue idea.
“There’s a leader, and we’ve got to find it,” he said.
His comments came about halfway through Wednesday’s forum, in response to a parent who described a chilling attack.
Vickie Salvo said her daughter was dragged into a school bathroom during school hours by girls she thought were her friends. There, 11 students blocked the door and instructed her attacker on how best to beat her up while they recorded it on a smartphone, she said.
“They were saying, ‘Step on her head.’ ‘Grab her hair again.’ She grabbed her by her hair and slammed her head on the floor,” Salvo said. “My daughter fought with all her might to get out of there. No adult came to rescue her.”
She asked Superintendent Laurence Spring where the hall monitors were during the attack. She also said that only the girl who attacked her daughter was punished, with “three days vacation.” The other 11 students were not punished, she said.
“Why?” she demanded.
Spring, one of the panelists at the forum, promised to look into it and call her today.
“It’s truly a horrible story. No one should have that experience,” he said.
Mental health counselor Robyn King, another panelist at the forum, said the other 11 students should have been punished.
“Anyone who witnesses an event like this, not to mention encourages it, is equally culpable,” she said.
Spring said many students have been suspended as school officials try to control the school. But, he said, often students see suspension as a “vacation.”
He asked for help.
“We need more staff,” he said, adding he particularly needs more assistant principals who can patrol the hallways and follow up quickly on disciplinary issues. He also needs more psychologists. It comes down to money, he said.
Every day, his psychologists “triage” students, handling only those who are in crisis because they simply don’t have enough time to help everyone, he said.
“There is more [mental health] baggage coming into the school than we are equipped and armed to deal with,” he said.
He put some of the blame on the state for not giving the district the $62 million the state aid formula says the district needs to provide a sound, basic education for all its students.
“Being shorted $62 million means we’re making unacceptable sacrifices every day,” he said. “This is killing our community. We’re being starved.”
He also said school officials are meeting with students in groups of 25 or 30 to lay down the law about behavior and punishments. Officials are also using that time to tell students that they cannot play such games as “grab breast Tuesday” and “slap butt Friday,” he said.
Panelists also stressed the need for parents to enforce rules about behavior and provide structure for children.
“I think it comes back to the family,” panelist and city police Chief Brian Kilcullen said.
Spring said he wants to find a way to reach the families that don’t come to forums and other events, because they are the “most influential” people in their children’s lives.
“We need to engage our parents much more substantively than we have,” he said.
He also said every student needs an adult who will not let them fail, but will help them recover from mistakes and ensure they become a successful adult.
“We’ve got lots of kids who do not have an adult like that,” Spring said.
But some parents took exception to that, saying they were doing all they could for their kids. One woman told Spring that since there will always be some inept parents, he was responsible for filling the gap.
“That’s a tall order for us,” Spring said as she shouted at him.
Other parents said they wanted the district to provide more hall monitors and other measures to keep their children safe — even metal detectors.
“I’d rather have my children in a safe fortress than preyed upon by juvenile delinquents,” said parent Debbie Roberts.
Several parents said their children, who attend Mont Pleasant, were afraid to go to school.
But Spring said he couldn’t afford to do everything.
“It’s not as though we’re not funding safety,” he said. “Some of it we don’t have the money for.”
Later, he added that he was regularly forced to choose between money for education, money for safety and increasing taxes. But he said the issue was more complicated than simply hiring staff.
“These are very complex problems. They’re not going to be simple solutions,” he said.