VCSD to have full-time sheriff’s deputy for rest of school year

VOORHEESVILLE – Social media postings made by a middle-school student prompted the Voorheesville School District to ask the Albany County Sheriff for an increased presence at its schools.

This, in turn, led the sheriff’s office to post a deputy full-time, serving both the elementary and secondary schools, until June 22.

Superintendent Brian Hunt told the Enterprise that the district requested the increased presence because of tweets last weekend that depicted hatred of homosexuals made by an already-suspended student.

The student, who had also tweeted his support for President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association, has had behavioral problems in the past as well as previous issues with transgender students in the school, said Albany County Sheriff's Chief Deputy William Rice.

The school is not releasing the student’s name.

The mother of the targeted student said that her daughter is gay, not transgender as police had described her in an Enterprise article posted online Monday. “I wanted to set the record straight that, although she has a boy’s haircut and she wears boys’ clothes,” the mother said in a message to The Enterprise, “she is not transgender; she does identify as gay.”

The student who made the posts is currently suspended for unrelated issues that occurred last week, Rice said, and was due at school on Monday with his parents for a meeting about what happened over the weekend.

Parents were alerted about the incident on Monday morning by the district’s School News Notifier system.

Also on Monday, Jennifer Drautz, the middle-school principal, sent an email to parents, which said, in part: “I received information regarding upsetting social media posts involving vulgar and inappropriate reposts of internet pictures and statements. The authorities have confirmed that a threat has not been made but that the posts are inappropriate.”

On Tuesday, a follow-up email to parents said: “School district officials remain in close contact with the Albany County Sheriff’s Department regarding this incident and subsequent social media comments. There have been no confirmed reports of a threat of violence by or against any student in our school district. The Sheriff’s Department has increased its presence on school campuses to reassure our students, staff, and parents. We will continue to closely monitor this situation and will remain in close contact with the Albany Sheriff’s Department to protect our students’ safety.

“We just asked for an increased presence because of the social media situation that we were just dealing with – just to reassure people; there are no threats,” Hunt told The Enterprise. The sheriff’s department offered a full-time deputy, Hunt said.

Hunt in an email to parents explained the duties of the latest addition to Voorheesville: “Deputy Danielle Vanderveer will be present on each campus for arrival and dismissal and will be in our schools to meet our staff, students, and parents to provide a reassuring presence.”

Vanderveer’s salary will come out of the sheriff’s budget, not the district’s Hunt said.

Voorheesville is considering a school resource officer, known as an SRO, for next year, Hunt told The Enterprise, but first, the district will hold a public forum, and the school board will have to discuss it as well. He said that an SRO would cost the district $65,000, but, because of a couple of late-in-the-year retirements, Voorheesville would be able to fund the position.

When The Enterprise asked Hunt, after the student’s tweets were made public, if any action had taken place, he said could not discuss an individual student’s discipline with anyone other than a parent or guardian because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which is a federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records.

According to Voorheesville Central School District’s policy manual: “Harassment, hazing, or bullying that takes place at locations outside of school grounds which can be reasonably expected to materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school or impinge on the rights of other students are prohibited, and may be subject to disciplinary consequences.”

This is a change from the cyberbullying policy the district first adopted a decade ago that limited the prohibition of electronic threats or intimidation to that occurring on school grounds, school buses, or during school-sponsored activities.

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