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NAACP leader alleges NPS coverup

Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams. (File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. — A cryptic Saturday morning social media post from Norwalk Public Schools was derided on Facebook as “how to deny something without saying what that something is.”

The announcement obliquely countered Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams’ assertion that the school district is covering up an assault at West Rocks Middle School, puzzling Facebook readers, who hadn’t heard of Penn Williams’ claims.

Reached Saturday afternoon by NancyOnNorwalk, Penn-Williams said she had warned district leaders Thursday, after an unsatisfying meeting, that she was going public and naming names.

Williams posted the accusations Friday on the Norwalk NAACP Facebook page, using her late husband’s identity. West Rocks Principal Adam Reynolds and Central Office “make assumptions about students who have behavioral problems and don’t use the resources to support them or fully investigate reported incidents,” and while the district “touts their increased social and emotional support” given to students, that hasn’t happened for one eighth grade boy who has been unjustly arrested twice this year.

The boy’s family is “new to our country” and “speaks very little English,” she said. He “has documented behavior issues stemming from trauma” and West Rocks hasn’t provided him with support, counseling or testing.

After the boy was beaten by 504 Gang members, a video turned up and Reynolds suspended him, denying him due process for an incident that happened outside of school, she said in the statement.

Penn-Williams provided NancyOnNorwalk a five-second-long video, saying it’s the video that was mentioned. It shows the boy in close range and a male voice tells him to “say 504K before I smack you.” The boy says it.

Penn-Williams said his uttering of the phrase was taken as threatening and he was arrested.

The statement goes on to describe another incident, in which the boy was experiencing in-school suspension (ISS) and was fooling around with another student, with his phone sitting on the desk, not being used. A paraprofessional took the phone, refused to give it back, saying, “I’m not giving you nothing son.”

The boy objected to being called “son,” the statement continues.  They exchanged words and the para kept calling him “son,” and the boy asked that he be given his phone and “he would be gone.” When he stood up, the paraprofessional “grabbed him by the neck and had him pinned up against the wall. He pushed him against the wall twice. Security came, took the phone and reported it to Adam Reynolds.”

The boy was again arrested, charged this time with third degree assault and breach of peace, according to Penn-Williams. School leaders said witness accounts didn’t corroborate the boy’s account of being attacked, but she obtained evidence that said otherwise when she went to the school with the mother of another student, whose signed witness account described an attack by the para.

The mother didn’t know her son had signed a statement, she said. “Interestingly, the mother told Adam Reynolds that he calls her for all of the negative things her son does, but did not call her when her son was brought in, questioned, told to write a statement and sign it.”

An adult witness had also signed a statement saying the para attacked the boy, according to Penn-Williams. Both the adult and the student spoke to her directly and said that they’d told Reynolds the para was at fault.

Penn-Williams accused Reynolds of lying to Norwalk Police and providing false witness statements. She said police are investigating the incident and she hopes they will investigate the alleged lies.

“The big question is, how many other students have they done this to and robbed them of an education and support to address their personal issues?  How many other students are victims?  Let’s hope the district looks further into this and does the right thing by all of Norwalk’s students,” Penn-Williams wrote.

NPS posted this statement Saturday morning on its Facebook page:

“In light of recent allegations posted on various social media channels that make reference to a situation involving Norwalk Public Schools, the district is reiterating that these claims of improper response hold no merit and that NPS has followed well-established protocols and proper procedures when responding to the situation. We also must reiterate that this matter is being investigated by local authorities. The well-being of our entire NPS community is our number-one priority, and Norwalk Public Schools is aiding the Norwalk Police Department by providing full transparency so that they may carry out their investigation.”

The NPS Facebook post was condemned by those who took the time to comment.

“{V}ery confusing and says nothing,” Gloria Tenofsky Falcone said.

“This is a very foolish statement for the NPS to publish. If you are going to do this and not explain the incident it makes everything worse. Come on use your educated heads,” Mary J Kellaher said.

In a phone call with NancyOnNorwalk, Penn-Williams said she has proof to back up the claims and, “I do not lie.”

She said the boy asked her himself to help him.

Penn-Williams said there was a meeting weeks ago in City Hall, where teachers came in one at a time to say supportive things to the boy. School personnel said they would formulate a plan but, “It hasn’t come to fruition yet. Where is it?”

NPS Media Relations Specialist Emily Morgan didn’t reply to a Saturday evening email giving the district a chance to respond to the comment.

Norwalk Police Chief James Walsh, Deputy Chief Terry Blake and spokesman Sgt. Joseph Dinho also did not reply to an email. On Monday, Walsh released a statement saying police have been investigating 504 in 18 incidents including vandalism, threats, and assaults. Nine arrests have been made.

Information added, 3:07 p.m.

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Comments

One response to “NAACP leader alleges NPS coverup”

  1. John O’Neill

    https://chrispowellcolumn.com/2023/05/01/brutal-candor-not-complicity-needed-from-states-schools/

    I think the link above is right on — Every teacher I know feels the same.
    Why is their Union Leadership not stepping up? Don’t they care? Even if their
    hands are tied, they should be pounding this into the public’s minds. Holy Cow!

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