Young Schenectady girl tells of grabbing at school
Student speaks to board, aims to stop ‘game’
SCHENECTADY A 12-year-old girl told the Schenectady school board on Wednesday that she was grabbed and touched by boys in a widespread game played in city schools.
Boys played “Grab A Breast Tuesday” and “Slap a Butt Friday” at both Van Corlaer Elementary School and Mont Pleasant Middle School, Hope Supley told them.
She said that after the fourth time she was inappropriately touched, she refused to go back to school. Her parents put their house up for sale Saturday and are now home-schooling her until they can move to another school district.
On Wednesday, she told the school board that she wanted them to make changes to protect other girls. All of her friends are still in the school district.
“Everyone needs to take a stand and take this school back,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s too late for me. But it’s not too late for the next girl who may be touched inappropriately.”
Supley came to the meeting with her parents, who said they also wanted programs to protect other children.
“There has to be other girls they’re doing this to who don’t like it,” said Jim Hiscock, Supley’s father.
He said the school properly investigated each incident and punished the boys involved. But, he said, it wasn’t enough to teach one boy that it was wrong to grab a girl. He said the district had to educate every boy.
“This could happen 398 more times,” he said. “The aggregate is the problem.”
Superintendent Laurence Spring said he had spoken with the family prior to Wednesday’s meeting. He said he could not speak about the details of the case, which might lead to a lawsuit, but he defended Mont Pleasant.
He’s seen a “significant improvement” in school behavior, he said.
He added that the interim principal is meeting with classes to discuss proper behavior and school officials have redirected a grant to add more staff to the building.
“The majority of the students in this building are outstanding kids,” he said. “They are respectful kids.”
Reports of misbehavior have been “sensationalized,” he said, adding that many of the problems are outside the school district’s purview.
“They are not necessarily school issues. They are community issues,” he said.
School board member Ron Lindsay told Supley he was “saddened” by what had happened to her.
He praised her courage for being willing to talk about it publicly. He added that he hoped to find a way to bring her back to school.
“Hopefully, through that process, we not only help you, we help other kids,” he said.
Board member Andrew Chestnut echoed Lindsay’s comments and thanked Supley for bringing the issue to the board.
He said later that it’s important for school officials to have an “inside view” of what’s going on in the schools so that they can prevent violence and other incidents.
After the meeting, Supley said she would never return to Schenectady schools.
She said she tried to tough it out after the first three incidents, which began in sixth grade at Van Corlaer Elementary School.
When she got to the middle school, she said, she heard boys openly talking about the Tuesday and Friday “games.”
As she walked to class in September, she said she heard one boy dare another to do something. Then the other boy slapped her butt, she said.
She fled, bursting into tears, and called her mother from the social worker’s office, she said.
“I don’t like it,” she said of the touches. “I feel uncomfortable.”
Her father said that she didn’t want to go to school the next morning. He tried some tough love.
“I said, look, 12-year-old boys are stupid. I know, I was one myself. You’ve got to face your fears,” he said.
She went to school.
The boy was given a day of in-school suspension, she said, but he later spoke crudely to her. She ignored the comment, she said.
But in October, another boy slapped her butt as they waited to be let into the school at the beginning of the day, she said.
“I started crying because I didn’t want it to happen again. I said I wanted to go home,” she said.
That was a Friday. On Monday, her parents met with Spring.
They asked him to send her to another district. They said Spring refused.
So they called a Realtor, they said.
They see no other option other than moving to another school district.
“They can do everything right from here forward; she will not feel comfortable,” her father said.