A student who has special needs fell through ice in Cromwell last month, but this incident prompted parents and even former school employees who weren’t shocked by it.
The teen is a student at Adelbrook School in Cromwell, which serves students who have special needs.
The Eyewitness News I-Team was contacted by a former employee, who worked at the school for a decade. She’s no longer there, partly because she said she was so upset with how things were run.
She spoke to the I-Team anonymously, saying “You expect it, it doesn’t shock me,” about the incident.
During the 10 years she was at the school, she said students wandered off.
The I-Team obtained police call logs, and since January 2016, Cromwell police had been to the Adelbrook location 84 times.
The call logs show many were for routine calls, but there were several labeled as juvenile incidents, which police say could range from anything from a fight to a wandering student.
“They have found kids wandering. A passerby found a child once on the road and the school didn't even know he was out of bounds,” the former employee said.
Police have confirmed they were called to look for wandering students on another occasion this year.
In fact, on the very night of the ice rescue, police were looking for another student who was unaccounted for.
He or she was later found on school grounds, but the former employee says when students leave, they'd usually find themselves on busy Hicksville Road, open to the dangers of passing cars and potentially predatory strangers.
While what she said she saw rarely ended with a child being put in imminent danger like this, the incident drove her to speak out.
“As a lifeguard, I just want safety to be there,” the former employee said.
Also, included in the police logs were several medical emergencies and even a bomb threat.
The I-Team also searched public records, and found a lawsuit from an incident in 2012.
It claims staff lost sight of a patient at Isaiah house, a Middletown group home operated by Adelbrook.
The girl involved ended up walking three miles, barefoot, before jumping off the Route 9 overpass and onto Route 9, suffering serious injuries.
All employees are mandated reporters and the former employee the I-Team spoke with said she's taken these concerns all the way up to Adelbrook’s president.
“We called him a few times over the summer when there were incidences at the school, but never got a direct call back,” the former employee said.
Adelbrook’s CEO and President Garry Mullaney said in part in a statement that his staff is: Skilled, highly competent and compassionate. Their work has produced the lowest percentages of runaways, police involvement and restraint not only in state but when bench-marked to comparable programs elsewhere.”
He said: “Our students can be impulsive which is a common factor in their diagnoses. Our reputation is based on serving very complicated cases and if any parent has an unresolved issue, I am always available to meet with them.”
Looking for more answers, we went to Cromwell’s Police Chief Denise Lamontagne, who noted that Adelbrook doesn't have a school resource officer and the school leans heavily on her department.
She also said calls have actually decreased significantly in recent years.
The state Department of Education also confirms Adelbrook is compliant with state regulations, but they did see individualized education plans for some students that were incomplete.
However, the former employee the I-Team spoke with said more needs to be done.
“I think an external agency needs to come in and just overhaul the whole facility,” she said.
The former worker also says she got the Department of Children and Families involved.
The I-Team tried to confirm that with the state, but since these cases involve children, they wouldn't comment.
Going back to the patient who jumped onto Route 9, that case is currently going through the court system.
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