A Hamden Middle School student, arrested Wednesday after school officials found a pellet gun and a steak knife in his backpack, was apparently attending the school illegally.
And because of that, the district will now audit all students who have entered the middle school and Hamden High School in the last year to assure they're here legally, Board of Education chairman Michael D'Agostino said.
At about 9 a.m. Wednesday, a teacher informed Hamden Police School Resource Officer Angela Hall that a student had brought a pellet gun to school, according to police spokesman Capt. Ronald Smith.
The teacher had gone into the student's backpack at his request to find a paper, Board of Education chairman Michael D'Agostino said, which is when she saw the pellet gun.
When Hall investigated the complaint, she found the pellet gun in the student's backpack, Smith said, along with an ammunition disc and a steak knife.
The student, a 12-year-old New Haven resident who was not identified because of his age, was charged with two counts of possession of a weapon on school grounds and two counts of carrying a dangerous weapon. He was released to the custody of his mother and is due to appear in Juvenile Court in New Haven on Feb. 29, Smith said.
He also was suspended from school, D'Agostino said, and a residency hearing will be held that will likely lead to his expulsion.
"We have a procedure in place whereby a parent has to present a number of documents to prove residency, and the mother did that for this student," D'Agostino said. "All the documents showed this was a Hamden student; however, because of this incident we went to the parent contacts and called his father, and it comes out that the student is living with the father in New Haven and is not appropriately in the Hamden school system so we will move to expel him on that basis."
The district has a policy that the school district a student attends should be in the city or town where the student sleeps at night, D'Agostino said, despite where the parents reside.
"The rule of thumb is where the head hits pillow at night is where they go to school," he said, "and this kid's head hits it in New Haven."
The district has a residency investigator on staff who looks into cases of students suspected of attending Hamden schools illegally. But it's impossible for one person to do all the work it takes, D'Agostino said.
"The documents we have could be very well from a parent living in Hamden so the documents may line up," he said. "The only way to find out if the parent is lying is to send out an investigator to follow the child, an we only have one person on staff who does that.
"It was only by virtue of this student's arrest that we were able to confirm he was attending illegally," D'Agostino said.
This sort of situation is fairly common, he said.
"They come to Hamden because it is a better school system," he said, "and often when they are from broken homes like this, it is very difficult to uncover the truth."
The district will now embark in an audit of all students that have entered Hamden middle and high schools, D'Agostino said, the levels that see the most students transfer from other districts.
"We will do an audit the best we can," he said, "but unless we hire more investigators, there are going to be some that fall through the cracks."