Residents and business owners from the North Winton Village neighborhood say they're fed up with some East High students, who, instead of going to school, spend the day using marijuana and cavorting in the neighborhood.
Residents clean-up garbage and drug paraphernalia from their yards, driveways, and doorways daily, they said at a neighborhood meeting last night that included Rochester police officers and officials from the school district.
Some residents even brought empty small plastic baggies used to carry pot and cell-phone photos they said they took of students getting high to show the police.
Area business owners and landlords say they are fed up with the problems, too. The McDonald's on the corner of East Main Street and Culver Road across East no longer allows students ages 19 and under to eat inside the restaurant during school hours, said owner Louis Buono.
One apartment-building owner said he has invested more than $200,000 to upgrade his property, but his tenants are intimidated by the activities of the young people who hang around outside the building. He said he had to install metal security barriers on the front doors, and that he's installing a $5,000 security system to prevent students from breaking in.
"We want the kids to be safe and in school," says Mary Coffey, co-chair of the North Winton Village Association. "But it's not our responsibility to track them down and keep them in school."
East has been identified by the State Education Department as a low-performing school, and district officials are spending thousands of dollars on remedial programs. But some residents at last night's meeting scoffed at that, saying the students aren't performing because many aren't in school.
Rochester School Board President Malik Evans, who was at the meeting, said the district is clamping down hard on truancy. Attendance is now supposed to be taken at the beginning of every period, he said, and school officials will be more aggressive in tracking down missing students.
But Evans said the district doesn't know if the students in North Winton Village's case are leaving school or not showing up at all.
"If they [students] were at East High and left school, then we've got a problem with East," Evans said. "But if we're dealing with kids who didn't go to school at all, that's a different problem."
But even though residents said they are getting some cooperation from school officials and police, the combination of drugs and truancy is not going to be easy to eradicate.
And even if police officers arrest students for possession of marijuana, there are few consequences. Students ages 16 and under would only be charged with a violation and released, police said.