Hartford City Council Concerned About Student Safety and Gangs
Asks for a report from police and schools
October 19, 2010
Despite continued statements from Hartford Public Schools that there is little or no gang activity in the city's schools, at least one member of the city council says otherwise. And more are concerned. WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports.
The city council held a joint meeting of its education and public safety committees Monday night. The meeting comes a month or so after a big student fight in downtown Hartford that police say may have been gang related.
Councilmen Jim Boucher and Calixto Torres both praised the school district for its academic progress and momentum as it tries to increase student achievement. But they said they still have concerns about student safety. Here's Councilman Torres.
“There are kids in the school system that are recruiting and trying to get other kids to be part of their neighborhood thing or their street thing. That’s what I hear. I know of one case, just the other day, a transfer from one school to Hartford High, that this particular young man was in fact recruiting.”
Torres says he hears from parents, students, and school staff who are concerned about wannabe gang members.
“We have a resurgence of some gangs. And there is a concern that this is beginning to creep into our schools.”
Police Chief Daryl Roberts is always cautious to add that when he says gangs, he doesn’t mean old-school, organized gangs. He means fluid groups of young people who identify together and get into trouble. But he and his officers don't want these groups to get out of control.
But despite police concerns, the schools administration has consistently said, quote, “we have seen little or no gang activity inside Hartford operated schools.”
After Monday’s meeting, Assistant Superintendent Christina Kishimoto walked that statement back a bit.
“I think there’s little outright activity. I go from school to school every morning, I’m looking at what’s happening, I’m engaging in conversations with young people about what they’re learning in the school day. I’m not walking into school and stopping fights or stopping people from calling each other or texting. That’s not what I’m going in and seeing. And so I think that’s what we’re speaking to is what is outright in your face.”
In the end, the city councilmen said they wanted to know more about how the police and the schools work together to deal with these students. They asked for a report to be submitted in no more than a month.