school threats

Connecticut Schools Grapple With Ongoing Violence and Threats

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“It was pretty scary.  Something that a parent doesn’t want to hear,” Jennifer, a parent of two Hamden High School students who asked us not to use her last name, told NBC Connecticut News on Friday.

Hamden High School closed Friday after school officials said they were made aware of a threat of potential gun violence. 

“Trust me, no superintendent arrives at closing a school easily. Dr. Goeler had no other option at that point,” said Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. “It may be that it’s credible and it may be that they can’t prove that it’s not credible.”

Police were stationed outside the empty school building Friday.

“I wouldn’t have sent my kids in if it was open,” said Jennifer.

On Monday, a high school student stabbed another student at a city bus stop adjacent to the high school, according to police.

“There’s been a lot of violence, and there was a discussion, a talk, chatter I guess it would be in the schools about a big fight happening today, and with this social media warning the schools and the police department chose to close with an abundance of caution,” said Mayor Lauren Garrett, who noted that Tuesday school shooting in Michigan that killed four students also played a part in the decision to close.

“There’s a broader issue here and the issue is the mental health of our students,” said Rabinowitz.

On Tuesday, two Meriden teens were taken into custody and charged with breach of peace after one allegedly took a prop gun to school. An image of the gun was posted on social media leading to the lockdown of Platt High School.

“We are seeing students be very volatile,” said Jennifer Straub, principal of Meriden’s other high school Maloney. “Relationships have always been the social challenge for teenagers.  As educators, we’re trying to grapple with why now.”

Two New Haven elementary school students were caught with knives in their schools on Tuesday according to officials. That same day a Hartford student brought a BB gun to school, according to police.

Wednesday, two fake bomb threats, one in Norwalk and one in Hartford, led to some tense moments. Student had already dismissed for the day at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy when the threat was discovered on the wall of the girl’s bathroom, but teachers had to evacuate.

“Clearly someone saw something and they said something,” said Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Hartford Public Schools Superintendent.

Straub says students are having a hard time readjusting to the school structure and acting out in ways that were rare pre-pandemic.

“We see students responding very impulsively when faced with anger, frustration, disappointment,” said Straub.

The district has invested in climate specialists to help create a more positive school environment.

“Meeting and greeting students, eating lunch with them, getting to know the students, who’s dating who, who’s having trouble with who, kind of eyes and ears on the ground,” Straub explained.

“The Connecticut State Department of Education continues to work with school districts and with schools to help provide every student with a safe and supportive environment in which to learn and to thrive. The Department continues to support districts in the work of building and maintaining crucial positive relationships, engaging families and addressing the social-emotional and behavioral health needs of students," said Charlene Russell-Tucker, Education Commissioner, in a statement to NBC Connecticut News.

Some parents are pushing for metal detectors.

"I think Hamden ought to have maybe a little bit more police presence, put a metal detector out. It’s a city, not a little tiny town in West Virginia," said Glenn Newman.

The police investigation will continue through the weekend. Hamden’s superintendent says he expects the school to reopen Monday.

Jennifer said she’s not sure she will send her children back to school then.

 “I want to see what happens and what they say over the weekend. You don’t know and with all the stuff that’s been going on, you don’t want to take any chances.”

A special board meeting will take place Monday night at six.

The superintendent says the idea of adding metal detectors will also be discussed at the district’s safety meeting on Thursday.