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Parents want more information about Stonington student's arrest

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: theday.com

Published March 26. 2012 3:26PM   Updated March 26. 2012 11:58PM

Stonington — Some parents here are criticizing school officials for not releasing more information about what precautions are being taken following Saturday's arrest of a 17-year-old male student who allegedly posted threatening messages on his Twitter account using the hashtag "#letsblowupshs."


Some also say they would like to know if the student is being allowed back in Stonington High School.


First Selectman Ed Haberek said Monday that he received emails and phone calls over the weekend from worried parents looking for more information.


Haberek said he emailed Superintendent of Schools Leanne Masterjoseph and Police Chief J. Darren Stewart asking them to update parents about the steps that are being taken.


A mother of one high school student who contacted Haberek criticized school officials Monday for not providing details about how they planned to keep students safe.


The woman, who asked not to be identified, said the email that Masterjoseph sent to parents late Friday afternoon was vague and "frankly, a bit condescending."


"She said, 'We're handling it, you don't need to worry, we have it under control,'" said the woman, who added that she first learned about the threat from a television news crew interviewing a neighbor.


In an email to parents on Friday, Masterjoseph wrote: "Stonington Parents, It was brought to our attention today that a social media post dated 3 weeks ago has warranted investigation by the Stonington Police department. The police and school administration have taken appropriate measures to ensure the safety of students and staff. No danger to school, students or staff exists.


"The police department is maintaining communication with school administration regarding its investigation. School administration thanks the police for their prompt and appropriate response."


The mother said she would also like to know if the student will be allowed to continue attending the school.


"I don't like to cause alarm or be dramatic by any means, I simply feel we can't be too careful these days in dealing with children who are outwardly threatening to others," she said in an email to Haberek.


The student, who was charged with second-degree breach of peace on Saturday and then released, was slated to appear in New London Superior Court Monday. Because he is a juvenile, police did not release his name, and his court proceedings are not open to the public.


It is unknown if the student was allowed to attend school on Friday — the day after police were alerted to his tweets — or on Monday.
When asked if the student was being allowed in the school, Masterjoseph said Sunday that she was "unable to make any statement regarding an individual student."


Board of Education Chairwoman Gail MacDonald, who said Monday that she had not been contacted by any concerned parents, declined to say whether she thought the school system should announce whether or not the student is being allowed to attend the high school.


"I'd have to refer that question to our attorney. I can't say what we can or can't do legally," she said. "Generally speaking, though, we can't say anything that identifies a particular student."


Meanwhile, on Monday, police stepped up their presence at the school; a police cruiser was parked next to the school's front entrance. Stewart, the police chief, said that he, Capt. Jerry Desmond, Youth Officer Tim Marley and one other patrol officer were in the school at various times throughout the school day.


"We had officers there all day. We wanted to make everyone feel more comfortable," Stewart said.


Police launched an investigation late Thursday night after being informed by a Day reporter about the student's tweets, which were laden with profanity, racist references, derogatory references toward women and threats.


j.wojtas@theday.com

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