Hartford Central School talks about inclusivity after bullying claims

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Hartford Central School District is in the heart of a historically conservative region in Washington County, but it appears the school is trying to change with the times: highlighting unity day on social media. It calls for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.

However, when Grayson Barrachina sees that post, “I think that’s how Hartford likes to trick people. Thinking, ‘oh everything is fine. We’re a lovely school,” he said. “But over here you have several bullying accounts and harassment issues.”

Grayson said he had to leave the school after years of intense bullying. All of which he traces back to being a transgender teen.

Grayson’s younger brother, Ashton also identifies as a transgender male and faces similar challenges.

“The school district’s first priority is to ensure the safety of anybody that enters our building,” Andrew Cook said, Superintendent of Hartford Central School District.

Cook said he cannot talk about any individual student. However, as a whole, complaints about bullying or peer conflict, real or perceived, are never ignored.

Even if the investigation does not yield concrete proof, the school still takes steps to avoid future problems.

“Maybe that’s adjusting security cameras in an area that’s been a high-traffic area, where we received complaints that there might be inappropriate behavior taking place,” Cook said. “Maybe we adjust the route of our special patrol officer to ensure they’re in a specific area at a specific time when there have been concerns. Faculty and staff in the hallway during transition times checking the bathrooms.”

Hartford is not alone in its effort to increase safety, and tolerance, for a growingly diverse generation that faces a challenging society.

A recent CDC study details how transgender teens are far more likely to: feel unsafe at school, be bullied, suffer from a substance-use disorder, and attempt or commit suicide.

As far as Grayson and his mom are concerned, there needs to be some sort of advocacy or support group for all students who feel targeted.

On that, all sides agree.

“We’re open to anything when we talk about the safety of students, physical safety, and their emotional safety nothing is off the table,” Cook said.

Unity Day may be a start but it is not going to solve all problems. Cook said the best way to protect all students is to build positive, open relationships between parents, students, and school staff.

He said they can’t fix what they don’t know about.