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    Monday, April 15, 2024

    Norwich schools report lists hundreds of student behavioral incidents this year

    Norwich — A parent who described herself as an “unofficial spokeswoman” in criticizing school leadership on school safety issues told the Board of Education on Tuesday that she now is a parent of a student victim of violence.

    Christine Carter described an incident Monday at the Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet Elementary School, in which a student allegedly started punching other children at breakfast and then wrapped her hands around Carter’s 7-year-old daughter’s neck. A paraeducator intervened, she said.

    But Carter complained that she did not learn of the incident from a principal or teacher but from her daughter later that day, despite two unrelated phone calls with Principal Kathryn O’Donnell that day after the incident had occurred. She said the principal later told her the incident had not yet been reported to her and she would investigate.

    Parents have complained about school safety problems and student behavior over the past several weeks. But only two parents addressed the board Tuesday during the first in-person meeting since summer.

    Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow did not address Monday’s alleged Moriarty incident, but discussion of school safety and student behavior dominated the meeting. She provided a report from staff on “unusual incidents” that included only five events, one an assault by a student on a staff member at the Thomas Mahan School on Oct. 22.

    No incidents at Moriarty were listed, including a publicized report by a behavioral therapist that she had been assaulted twice by a student while breaking up a fight. The therapist was diagnosed with a concussion, her hospital report showed.

    A separate chart provided by Assistant Superintendent Tamara Gloster listed 454 student behavioral incidents broken down by category, along with a report of disciplinary actions taken.

    Gloster reported the district in October averaged 10 incidents per day of “throwing objects, obscene language and physical fighting,” up from 8.2 per day in September.

    Of the 454 total incidents, 15 were listed as assaults on other students, three assaults on staff, 22 physical fights, 23 incidents of thrown objects and 20 incidents of property destruction. Another 33 incidents were labeled “non-verbal disruption,” and in 24 cases, students left the classroom.

    Gloster reported racial breakdowns, with 154 incidents involving Black students, 138 Hispanic students and 93 white students. She said Black and Hispanic students were suspended 50% more times than white students.

    During board discussion of the report, board members said they would support hiring more behavioral specialists, and member Carline Charmelus noted the racial discrepancies in disciplinary action and said Black and Hispanic students “need more support services.”

    The school district launched a parent survey on school climate and behavioral issues that is due back by Nov. 12. Gloster said, however, that only about 10% of parents have turned in survey responses thus far.

    After the meeting, parents Carter and Jessica Quay called the survey disappointing, too general and said it did not address specific concerns.

    The board discussion of school safety included an overview of new training, equipment and support materials to address outside safety issues. Staff are undergoing ALICE — Alert, Lockdown, Informed, Counter, Evacuation — training in preparation for possible active threats to school safety. The John B. Stanton School will receive a number of safety devices, including metal shutters for classroom windows and door jams, as a pilot program, Stringfellow said.

    The school district also started using a Raptor security system that screens school visitors’ name and date of birth for possible listing on the national sex offender registry. The Raptor system also asks visitors health questions related to COVID-19.

    The school safety systems are being implemented as the district begins to reopen opportunities for parents to volunteer in schools and at school activities. Stringfellow said one survey has been sent to principals asking for volunteer opportunities in their schools, and another survey went out to parents seeking their volunteer interests.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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