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City Forum Hears Talk Of Gun In Grade School

Accused Of Taking Weapon To School

April 29, 2005

A state Department of Children and Families official told community leaders and residents at an anti-violence forum in Hartford on Thursday that a sixth-grader was recently accused of taking a gun to school.

Among those who attended the forum Thursday was Hartford Police Chief Patrick Harnett, who said the DCF official's comments marked the first time he heard about the situation with the boy, who attends Fred D. Wish Elementary School in the city's North End.

The DCF official, Duckworth Grange, said the boy is 11 years old and recently went to the Wish school armed with a gun with the intent of shooting at another student.

Grange's comments were part of a heated discussion among many local officials and concerned residents who expressed alarm about youth violence in the city. More than 50 people attended the forum.

Though Harnett said Grange's comments marked the first time he heard about the situation, Hartford School Superintendent Robert Henry confirmed after the forum that the boy had been referred to Juvenile Court after several students reported seeing him carrying a gun to school.

Henry said the boy was referred to Juvenile Court after Wish school officials met with Hartford police officers to discuss the matter. Henry said the gun was never recovered, and it wasn't clear what kind of gun it may have been. Henry said it also is not clear whether the boy ever took the gun onto school grounds, adding that he was unsure what charges the boy faces in Juvenile Court.

Henry said a hearing to determine whether the boy should be expelled has been delayed.

Grange said he mentioned the incident at Thursday's forum, which was hosted and sponsored by The Village community service and outreach organization, to call attention to the growing problem of young people who are turning to guns to solve disputes or arguments.

Though other top school district officials, including school district spokesman Terry D'Italia, said they were not aware of the Wish incident, Henry confirmed details of the incident after learning that Grange had spoken about it at a public forum.

The identity of the boy involved is being withheld because of his age .

Also in attendance were several young people who urged the audience to follow up their words of concern with concrete steps to help show the city's youths that they care.

"The real reason we're here isn't to talk about what we can do, the real reason is to see what we're going to do," said Joseph Wilkerson, a 15-year-old participant in the Stump the Violence youth program who offered up an action plan that his peers recently created.

Others said the problem would never be solved until society provides more resources for poor, undereducated parents to help them take responsibility for their children.

"Parents need to step up and do their job, but they need help, too," said Dollie McLean, founder and executive director of the Artists Collective Inc. "Right now, 75 percent of the people in our jails are minorities. That is no accident."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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