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Concern At And Around Burns School

Two incidents on the same day highlight neighborhood security issues

By Jeff Cohen

October 27, 2010

Two incidents outside a Hartford school last Friday have administrators, police, and politicians concerned about neighborhood safety. WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports.

Levey Kardulis was standing outside of the Latino Studies Academy at Burns School after dismissal last Friday when he saw a terrorized 12-year-old boy running straight for him.

“And I guess [the boy] was running to the main doors but the main doors were locked. You have to buzz the buzzer and then they’ve got to buzz you in. And so he saw me standing up and so he just ran right to me, like in terror.”

We’re not using the boy’s name because of his age. Kardulis is a custodian who is also the head of his citywide union that represents school custodians and others. He says he took the boy into the school, helped stabilize the situation outside, and then came back in.

“He was so terrified I guess, he pulled the knife out, you know? And I was shocked. But, you know, immediately I grabbed his wrist. '[Name redacted], man, what are you doing?' But you could tell he was just out of it.”

Police say that the boy came to school with a knife and a BB gun that his mother gave him as protection from bigger, older bullies in the neighborhood. The boy's mother was arrested for giving him the weapons -- although she later told the Hartford Courant that she hadn't done so.

David Medina is the spokesman for schools superintendent Steven Adamowski. In an email to WNPR, he said that whatever bullying took place with the 12-year-old boy didn’t happen in the school and that the alleged bullies were too old to be students at Burns.

Adamowski gave a bit more detail in an email to city Councilman Jim Boucher. In that email, the superintendent says he suspected that one or more of the bullies could be from Bulkeley High School. He also said he doesn't yet know whether the bullies were part of a neighborhood gang, but he was clear that there is no gang activity at Burns School itself.

The incident with the 12-year-old boy wasn’t the only thing happening after school at Burns that day. Police say a school bus was passing by just after three o'clock when students on the bus and on the street started arguing. A short distance later, some students tried to force their way onto the bus. A bit further along was a group of children with hoodies up, throwing rocks at the bus and breaking a window.

Schools spokesman Medina told WNPR that that one child was hit in the chest and two others had their hair covered in glass, but that none needed medical treatment. The students on the bus were from the Noah Webster MicroSociety Magnet School in the city’s West End.

In his email to Councilman Boucher, Adamowski also said that there have been chronic safety problems after school hours in the neighborhood surrounding Burns School. Adamowski said, quote, “I have personally heard from parents who are afraid to let their children out on the street after school.” Adamowski said more police and parental activity is necessary.

Kardulis said the past three years at Burns have been the hardest of his 20 years in the school district. And he agrees that safety outside the school, after school, is a real problem.

“These are bigger kids coming onto the campus, you know, right in the area where I have little kids, where I’ve got first graders.”

Councilman Boucher says he's been assured that investigations are continuing. He says the city and the schools are working together to get a handle on the situation.

"I think overall there's a growing concern that there are issues that are in both the community and have some relationship to the students attending the school that need greatest amount of attention that we can give to this."

The incidents at Burns School come just over a month after a crowd of students gathered at the heart of downtown for an afterschool fight that police said was like a mob scene.

Reprinted with permission of Jeff Cohen, author of the blog Capital Region Report. To view other stories on this topic, search Capital Region Report at http://capitalregionreport.wordpress.com/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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