NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Police have been investigating a “loosely organized group mostly made up of middle school students that identify themselves as ‘504,’” Chief James Walsh said Monday.
Incidents of vandalism and “additional events” have occurred in connection to West Rocks Middle School and Nathan Hale Middle School, both on and off school grounds, related to the group, he said. Nine juvenile arrests have been made through the investigations.
“The moniker 504 is the country calling code for Honduras,” Walsh explained.
From January through March, School Resource Officers (SROs) developed intelligence on the group, he said. Police collaborated with community stakeholders, Norwalk Public Schools Central Office and Ryan Harold, Norwalk Public Schools Safety & Security Supervisor and administrators at the two middle schools to address the incidents.
Police have initiated 18 separate investigations varying from vandalism, threats and assaults, resulting in the nine arrests, he said.
The announcement came shortly after Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams went public with concerns about a West Rocks eighth grader, who she said had been beaten by members of the 504 “gang.” She accused Norwalk Public Schools of covering up an assault.
The boy, a recent immigrant who doesn’t speak much English, isn’t getting the emotional support he needs from the school district, she said Thursday. NPS, in a Saturday statement, said, “these claims of improper response hold no merit” and “well-established protocols and proper procedures” have been used in response to the situation.
The NPS statement said, “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.”
Walsh promised Monday that police will continue collaborating with Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella and her team “to address all issues to ensure a safe learning environment for all students at Norwalk Public Schools.”
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