There’s definitely a problem in the hallways of Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy. And by the inaction of the principal and the city’s education department, it’s not getting better any time soon.
At least that’s the viewpoint of worried parents of students who have not been involved in the uptick in fighting. They faced principal Lori O’Mara at a parent association meeting in April where videos of hallway and stairwell fights were shared. Many of the parents were not satisfied with O’Mara’s response. She told them she was not aware of the situation, although minutes of that meeting stated, she was aware, and had been addressing the issue.
Yet, as of this summer some parents have yet to hear of any suspensions, detentions or arrests being made. All they received was the annual letter from the principal where a new cell phone policy was announced and that the school maintains a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to fighting.
The cell phone policy was most likely a response to the high number of cell phone videos that were posted on social media after the fights took place. Yet, not a single mention of the fighting itself.
Based on data from the New York Police Department’s school safety division, there probably should have been. Between April and June of this year, of the nine instances reported, there were two arrests, two juvenile reports, and three child-in-crisis reports. During the same time period in 2022, there were nine instances as well.
While the statistics show some kind of police action was taken this year, there is still no public record of how many students were disciplined by the schools via suspension or detention. And that is what parents are looking for. They just want some communication from the education department and the principal that the school did indeed take action.
In the entire 50th Precinct — which includes RKA — there were 38 police reports in schools. Of them, two were arrests, and five were juvenile reports. Based on those figures, suffice it to say, RKA had the most violent fights.
As the videos show, they were indeed quite violent. But what was as disturbing was how their fellow classmates cheered on the instigators — and how helpless teachers were.
Some girls were heard cheering on the alleged instigator while others took the side of the “victim.” Between the cacophony of the students, you could see the helpless teachers and physical education teacher trying to stop the violence. But it was too late as at least two other fights broke out minutes later — including one on the dangerous stairway between the high school and middle school classes.
One student had to go to the hospital for stitches, while another younger student was almost thrown down a staircase, according to a parent.
A big issue for teachers and administrators is the reluctance of them to break up fights because they are not supposed to touch students. Unfortunately, there was at least one case where a teacher was attacked.
While we understand fights happen in schools — always have — we believe there needs to be a massive improvement in how those fights — and how they were resolved — are reported to all of the parents, not just those of the students involved. That includes setting up a system for parents to call a hotline, or have access to the principal if they are told by their children about a fight.
The lack of communication has caused a lack of trust that has also led to more fights, since it appears to many that the lack of action by the school’s administration means it’s open season for more.