A New York school district administrator who was seen on social media cursing at police during a Black Lives Matter protest has been placed on leave, following backlash from parents and community members.
Steve Lysenko, who serves as a ninth grade teacher and academy assistant principal at Spencerport Schools in Rochester, identified himself in a widely circulated Facebook Live video he recorded on the night of Sept. 4 during a protest outside Rochester Police Department.
In the one-minute video, Lysenko accused the police of trying to disperse the protesters with pepper spray. More than 1,000 people took to the streets that night in downtown Rochester on behalf of Chicago man Daniel Prude, whose death in Rochester police custody led to the suspension of seven police officers.
This is Steven Lysenko, assistant principal at Spencerport High School in Rochester. He was at the riot last night and even reportedly led students in this march. He says it was “peaceful.” At least two cops were injured last night. pic.twitter.com/WyRnso93Az
— Brittany (@Brittany3l) September 5, 2020
“We didn’t do anything but chant and sing,” said Lysenko, who can be seen wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt. “And guess what happened? Our peacekeepers ended up shooting pepper spray at us for singing and chanting and telling them what a [explicit] job they were doing.”
“They can [explicit] right off America,” he shouted. “[Explicit] the police; [explicit] the Rochester Police Department. Thank you.”
The video, after being spread on social media, caused an uproar from parents and Rochester locals who found Lysenko’s remark troublesome. The Spencerport School defended the teacher in its initial response, focusing on his foul language rather than the hostility towards law enforcement in the video.
“Spencerport Central School District stands in solidarity in support of racial equality and systemic change. We remain committed to this change, and want all of our families to know we further stand in solidarity with peaceful protesters,” the district wrote in a statement, admitting that Lysenko’s use of language was inappropriate. “We apologize to our students, parents and community that you had to hear this language from one of our employees.”
Unsatisfied with the district’s response, more than 3,500 people from the Rochester community and the general public signed an online petition demanding Lysenko’s dismissal.
“To see a public educator stating such a vulgar statement online disrespecting the men and women of our community is intolerable,” the petition reads. “This is unprofessional and I do not want someone who acts out such manner influencing my peers or community. I do not care your beliefs, no educator should set this example.”
As of Sept. 6, Rochester has seen five consecutive nights of protesting. Over the weekend, Rochester police reported seven arrests with misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly. Two of those arrested are also charged with rioting and assault against an officer.