Two incidents at Portsmouth’s Hathaway Elementary School in recent weeks have necessitated police involvement, and one has led to charges against multiple minors enrolled in the public school system. Both incidents took place on weekends, on school grounds but outside of school hours.
In an email to update to parents in the district, Portsmouth Superintendent Tom Kenworthy explained, “During the weekend of May 6th, a student was assaulted by a group of other students. All of the individuals involved in this incident have been identified and a Portsmouth Police Department investigation is ongoing.”
WPRI later reported the Portsmouth Police Department had brought charges against some of the students involved in the assault, which the police characterized in a quote to WPRI as one 15-year-old student being “dragged on the ground, punched and kicked” by a group of other students.
The victim’s mother told WPRI the attack left her son with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a concussion, and a ruptured ear drum that may require surgery. She also said her son had entered the district in fifth grade, but was no longer enrolled in the Portsmouth Public School system. She said her son had been bullied since arriving in Portsmouth.
Police told the local TV station they learned footage of the assault was going around social media, and the school resource officer used the social media footage to identify three of the suspects. Four juveniles, including those three, were then arrested, and the victim was also charged after he allegedly retaliated the following day in the area of East Main Road.
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The WPRI report stated all five juveniles are from Portsmouth and range in age from 13 to 15 years old. Portsmouth School Committee Chair Emily Copeland declined to speak about specifics of the incident, declining comment on the age of the students involved or the number of students involved, but did confirm that everybody involved was a juvenile, no high school students were involved, and that police had brought charges against several minors enrolled in the school district.
The second incident, according to Kenworthy’s email, occurred over the weekend of May 13-14. He wrote, “Hathaway students who were enjoying time on the playground reported that they were confronted by older students who allegedly threatened and harassed the younger students. The Police Department is also investigating this incident, and we are working to identify the individuals involved.”
Kenworthy’s email also stated the Portsmouth Police Department would be increasing patrols at all schools and playgrounds after hours, but did not specify whether this included increased weekend patrols. The Portsmouth Police Department did not respond to a Newport Daily News request for comment on the morning of Friday, May 19.
“Any violence on school grounds and against schoolchildren is highly disturbing,” Copeland told The Daily News. “And it is of great concern to the district, and to the school committee.”
Copeland also confirmed to the Daily News that the Portsmouth School Committee will be including in its Tuesday, May 23 meeting a discussion on potential district policy implications for student incidents that occur outside of regular school hours, specifically including incidents that take place on school grounds.
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