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After student death, Union-Endicott school district addresses parents' concerns over bullying

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Megan Zerez
School board members and district leaders meet with concerned students, staff and other community members during a meeting on December 6.

The suicide of a thirteen-year-old in the Village of Endicott this past November sparked outcry from parents, students and community members. His school district said it is still working to address those concerns.

This week’s school board meeting at Union-Endicott opened with a moment of silence for recent deaths in the district — two retirees and the thirteen-year-old, Domanick Hayward.

Hayward took his life a week after he was injured in a serious altercation between students.

Megan Zerez
A memorial to Hayward at the George F. Johnson public library in Endicott. Hayward was a regular at the library before his death.

The district held a series of town hall-style meetings in the wake of Hayward’s death to discuss student mental health and bullying. Dozens of people shared their concerns, including students, local librarians, bus drivers, teachers and parents.

Union-Endicott Superintendent Nicole Wolfe presented some of the feedback to school board members at a meeting this week.

"Some of the things that we've heard that have come up are that we need to look at the code of conduct," Wolfe said. "We need to look at cell phone usage at the high school, for example. We need to look at our anti harassment and bullying policies."

Wolfe said issues like student mental health and bullying have gotten worse since kids returned to school after pandemic lockdowns. Psychologists say two years of remote learning affected students' social skills, which could be behind a nationwide uptick in student misconduct in the months since.

Wolfe said the district plans to form several "board advisory groups" to suggest policy changes that the school board can then vote to adopt. The groups will be open to students, school staff, board members and community members.

Wolfe said school principals throughout the district will also receive additional training to better address fighting and bullying at school.

Jean Snedaker has attended nearly all of the district's town hall meetings. She said her granddaughter was friends with Hayward before his death.

Snedaker said she's glad the school is listening to parents' concerns and making a plan for the long term. But she's worried those long-term plans won’t come soon enough for students who are being bullied now.