Three local teenage boys — ages 15, 16, and 17 — were held for questioning on April 25, less than a week after they yelled epithets and threw an object from an open car on the Bard College campus, according to Bard College Director of Security Ken Cooper.
Cooper said he has been working with the Red Hook Police and New York State Police, and that the acting Red Hook police chief, Sgt. Patrick Hildenbrand, met with the three teens and their parents.
“I spoke to the parties involved,” Hildenbrand said. “It’s been rectified.”
Because the young men are minors, Hildenbrand would not release their names, but he said that they are students at Red Hook High School.
Cooper said the incident on Annandale Road involved a silver car, but that other similar incidences have also been reported involving a black SUV and a silver SUV throughout this year. Cooper said he has received about six complaints from students.
“Please be vigilant,” Cooper told the Bard community in an email with the subject line, “Security Notification – Annandale Knuckleheads Caught.” He explained that three teens, responsible for “yelling racial and homophobic epithets at our students,” were being held for questioning with Hildenbrand.
Hildenbrand said the three teens were responsible for one incident, but added that he has no reason to believe they were responsible for similar incidents.
“It’s not clear who is responsible for what, only that they threw a water bottle in that one instance,” he said.
Bard junior Rosette Cirillo said that harassment on Annandale Road has become so frequent that her friends anticipate hearing catcalls and epithets from passing cars when they go out. One student, mentioned by both Cirillo and Cooper, was touched inappropriately while jogging, but the car drove away before a license plate or driver could be identified, they said.
“That’s not acceptable on campus,” Cirillo added.
Cirillo runs a philosophy club at Red Hook’s Linden Avenue Middle School and said that she had always viewed the college’s relationship with the town as a positive one—before this year.
Still, her idea of Red Hook has not been spoiled. “I think it’s a loud minority that misunderstands us,” Cirillo said. “They’re harboring some kind of phobia against difference within our own community.”
Hildenbrand said that he has asked the three teens to stay away from the Bard campus for a period of time. Cooper also said that he plans to meet with the driver of the car and his father, to discuss the incident.
“The Bardian philosophy is educate rather than hurt people,” Cooper said.
Cooper views the town-gown relationship as a reciprocal, integrated one. “We are a part of the local community,” he said. “We have an obligation to give them an opportunity to rehabilitate.”
Cirillo hopes this event marks the end of such incidents. “Even if they don’t like us, they’ve got better things to do,” she said.