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Museum to Host Discussion Series on Health

WEST HARTFORD — In partnership with The Jackson Laboratory, the New Children’s Museum will host the first event of its new discussion series on family health, community, and education topics.



healthbeatlogoOn  Jan. 28, at 6:00 p.m., Dr. Blake Hanson from The Jackson Laboratory in Farmington, will present “The Human Microbiome: A New Frontier that Might Just Affect Everything” at The New Children’s Museum. The human microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that live on and in the body, affecting everything from digestion to defense against disease. Through the presentation of cutting edge research and discoveries in the field of microbial genomics, Dr. Hanson will discuss how the human microbiome plays a big role in both healthy and disease states for everyone.


Dr. Hanson’s talk will be followed by an open discussion and meet-the-scientist session. Dr. Hanson holds a PhD in Epidemiology from The University of Iowa and is interested in transmission and colonization of infectious diseases. He currently utilizes advanced technologies to study microbial genomics.


Advanced tickets are available online at at $8 for the general public and $5 for members of The New Children’s Museum and college students (with student ID). Tickets will be $10 at the door. Limited seating is available.


The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.


The New Children’s Museum and Roaring Brook Nature Center are the region’s premiere destinations for exploration. The New Children’s Museum and Preschool are located at 950 Trout Brook Drive in West Hartford and Roaring Brook Nature Center is located at 70 Gracey Rd in

Canton. More information is available at


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Troop H Arrests Two Hartford Men in Cocaine Bust

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer
HARTFORD — Hartford State Troopers recently arrested two men for having about one kilogram of cocaine.
Jose Fontanez, 28, 160 New Britain Ave. in Hartford, was charged with reckless driving, engaging in pursuit, operating a motor vehicle while using a handheld device, illegal possession of narcotics, reckless use of the highway by pedestrian, interfering with an officer. Fontanez’s bond was set at $100,000.
The second suspect, Erick Ortiz-Aguayo, 33, of 159 Wethersfield Ave. in Hartford was also arrest. Police did not state his charges in a press release sent to The Hartford Guardian.


On Jan. 1, 2016 at approximately 6:20 p.m. troopers were conducting motor vehicle enforcement on I-91 southbound in the area of exit 38 in Windsor when they observed the operator of a motor vehicle using their cell phone while driving.
Troopers activated their emergency lights and siren in an attempt to stop the vehicle. The operator refused to stop the vehicle, and engaged troopers in pursuit.



During the brief pursuit, troopers observed an object being thrown from the vehicle as it exited the highway at exit 38. The pursuit stopped chasing the suspects and then returned to the grassy area of the exit 38 off-ramp where they found a large amount of suspected narcotics.



Troop H officers seized the cocaine, and transported it back to Troop H where it was held as evidence.
On Jan. 2, 2016 at about 12:30 a.m., Troopers observed two males searching the grassy area off of exit 38 where the narcotics were thrown during the pursuit earlier in the evening.



Through the course of the investigation and witness information, troopers determined that both of the males, Fontanez andOrtiz-Aguayo, were in possession of the vehicle at the time of the pursuit, and when the narcotics were thrown into the grassy area off exit 38.
Both males were taken into custody and transported to Troop H were they were processed.
Fontanez was released after posting bond, and Ortiz-Aguayo was held on bond pending his court date.



Both suspects are scheduled to appear in Enfield Superior Court on Jan. 29.



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Mass Shootings and the Media: What Is Terrorism?

Burguan did not answer those questions during a press conference Wednesday evening after the alleged assailants were killed in a shoot out with officers. Hours later, law enforcement officials released the supposed shooters’ names — Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik.

A variation of Farouk’s name had been circling in the conservative blogasphere after it was heard on a police scanner. The “Arabic-sounding” name fueled anti-Arab and Muslim sentiments hours before the actual name was officially released. As of Thursday morning, police said the motive of the attack remains unknown.

Anticipation surrounding the identity of the suspects on Wednesday was directly linked to one question: Is it terrorism?

Five days earlier, Robert L. Dear Jr. killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Police said he rambled about “baby parts” during the rampage. Dear, described as “deeply religious,” seemed to have a political agenda against abortions. But few in the mainstream media described him as a terrorist.

In progressive circles, Dear was called a terrorist. But mainstream media dismissed the “terrorism” charge early on.

Dear’s “white privilege” spared him the label, comedian and activist Amer Zahr said.

What is terrorism?

In San Bernardino, the terrorism question surfaced almost immediately after the shooting.

According to a New York Times report, there have been 209 mass shootings that killed or injured four or more people so far this year.

The federal government defines terrorism as violence intended to intimidate a civilian population; or acts aimed at influencing government policies by coercion.

The U.S. Code cites mass destruction, assassination and kidnapping for political motives on American soil as examples of domestic terrorism.

However, in the media and even sometimes in the legal realm, terrorism is perceived exclusively as Islamist jihadism and linked to the assailants’ race and religion.

After the Paris terrorist attacks last month, Fox News’ Shannon Bream wondered about the attackers’ skin color.

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School Fair for Magnet Schools Begins Nov. 14

HARTFORD — Want to explore the many great opportunities for your child’s education within the Greater Hartford region?

The Department of Education is inviting you to its second regional school choice fair of the 2016-17 lottery application season on Nov. 14, 2015. The informational event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Metropolitan Learning Center, 1551 Blue Hills Ave. in Bloomfield.

Families planning to attend may sign up in advance online for this fair at RSCO’s web site ( Look for the ‘Sign Up In Advance!’ link under ‘News & Events’ on the main page.

The 2016-17 on-time lottery application period opened Oct. 15, 2015 and closes on Jan. 29, 2016. Officials said that there are approximately 43 magnet school options with specialized themes available; Hartford and suburban students may apply.

Students can apply to attend a non-magnet public school outside of their hometown. Once enrolled, Hartford residents may attend school in their Open Choice district through high school graduation.The largest numbers of available seats tend to be in transition grades, particularly prekindergarten, kindergarten, grade 6 and grade 9.

The fair will feature information about the wide array of options available to Hartford and suburban students entering pre-kindergarten through grade 12. RSCO partners include: the Capitol Region Education Council; Hartford Public Schools’ Host Magnet Program; the Hartford Region Open Choice Program; Goodwin College’s Early Childhood Magnet School and CT River Academy; the Connecticut Technical High School System; Bloomfield Public Schools’ Wintonbury Early Childhood Magnet School and The Global Experience Magnet School; and East Hartford Public Schools’ Connecticut IB Academy.

The lottery is not first-come, first-served and families are encouraged to make an informed decision.

For more information on school fairs, information sessions and open houses, please visit RSCO’s web site at or call RSCO’s Parent Information Center at 860-713-6990 weekdays (excluding state holidays) between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Metropolitan Learning Center

1551 Blue Hills Avenue

Bloomfield, CT 06002

Snow Date & Time: Sunday, November 15, 2015 from 1-4 p.m.

This fair will feature RSCO programming for Grades PK-12

Saturday, December 5, 2015

9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Connecticut River Academy

9 Riverside Drive

East Hartford, CT 06118

Snow Date & Time: Sunday, December 6, 2015 from 1-4 p.m.

This fair will feature RSCO programming for Grades PK-12

Saturday, January 9, 2016

9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Conard High School

110 Beechwood Road

West Hartford, CT 06107

Snow Date & Time: Saturday, January 16, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This fair will feature RSCO programming for Grades PK-12

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Fire Fighters Investigating Capen Street Blaze

HARTFORD — The Hartford fire department are still investigating a fire that happened on Capen Street on Thursday.

Late Thursday, firefighters responded to a three-alarm fire that set a blaze to a multi-family house  on Capen Street late Thursday.

The fire began at about 9:30 p.m. and witnesses said that smoke could be seen coming from the rear of the building.

 Late evening, police had to block off the area to traffic to contain the blaze.


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Police: Children Taken From DCF Home Found

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — State officials on Tuesday found the two children who were taken from a Department of Children and Families facility on Hamilton Road.

Police said the unidentified children are now safe.

The children, both of whom are 7 years and 7 months old, were taken by their mother from the facility, police said.

There’s no more information available at this time about where the children were held or why they were taken from the facility.

Police is still investigating the matter.

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Youth Service Officers: We are not Abusing Kids in Jail

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A state investigation that uncovered improper use of restraint and seclusion at Connecticut’s juvenile correction facilities left out one important element, front line staff members say: their voices.

“We cannot and will not be portrayed as the enemy or the abuser of the young people we are dedicated to helping and healing,” says Suzanne Borner, a teacher at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School for boys in Middletown.

“We ask you to remember that every story has another side, and a whole lot more context. Please hear ours,” said George Register, a youth service officer of eight years.

For example, consider  the story of Jennie.

A video of her being violently tackled from behind in a hallway was among those made public by the Office of the Child Advocate and became a centerpiece of the investigation‘s condemnation the juvenile facilities’ practices. Jennie had refused to return to her cell in the Pueblo Unit, the secure facility for girls.

“What people don’t realize is that back in July there was a huge riot where every single resident in the facility at the Pueblo Unit was involved. There were staff assaults. There were youth assaults. And there was mass destruction on an entire floor of the facility because the fire system was pulled,” said Sarah Levok, a youth service officer of 13 years. A fight involving four girls happened the night before the incident with Jennie.

“The staff that were still working were under the directive to make sure that they could keep the residents contained, but they still had to have some of their needs met where the kids would have to come out to use the bathroom,” said Levok.

And when Jennie was let out and refused to be locked up in her room again, staff decided they would physically escort her back into her room.

“She did have to get secure and get placed back to where she needed to be in order to keep the unit secure,” said Levok.

Jennie and a male youth service officer were injured in the incident. Last year, 160 staff were injured restraining youth at the state-run jails costing the state nearly $1 million in medical bills or lost time from work, reports the Department of Administrative Services.

The staff’s response to noncompliance of youth in their custody has been the center of debate among mental health experts and state legislators after the release of the Jennie video and seven others showing youth being violently restrained and dragged into seclusion.

Sarah Eagan, the state’s child advocate,  points to state law which only permits restraint or seclusion when there is an imminent risk of injury to the child in custody or others.


“That’s not really what happened here. What we had here was a youth standing in the common area and who didn’t want to go to her room which does not necessitate the type of intervention we see here,” she explained during a webinar when releasing the videos last month.

“The fact that they see restraint and seclusion as the only response to the fight the night before is telling,” she said Friday. “They didn’t even have a clinician present. Everyone is such a danger, but they didn’t have a clinician there to help.”

In her 68-page investigation, she documents dozens of stories of youths being restrained or put into solitary confinement for extended periods of time for not following orders.

Frontline staff members counter that they are unfairly being demonized, that the videos are being taken out of context and that they are just following the training they have received to deal with what they describe as a dangerous population.

“Many of our residents are the size of full-grown adults. They are big kids with developmental temperaments of teenagers and oftentimes toddlers. Whatever their history, their diagnosis, no matter how strong our relationships with them, each and every one of our youth at CJTS at any given moment can become aggressive and violent. Each and every one of them is inherently an  imminent risk to themselves and other residents and staff,” explained Peter Maylor, a youth service officer of nine years.

The primary crimes that result in incarceration for youths are mostly nonviolent offenses such as larceny or drug possession, according to the 2014 annual report of CJTS. The training school and Pueblo Unit house youth who commit crimes not serious enough to warrant handling them in the adult corrections system. Last year, 163 boys and girls under age 18 were incarcerated in adult prisons run by the Connecticut Department of Correction.

But several mental health experts said after reviewing the videos that the way the youth are handled might actually be contributing to the volatile environment.

Dr. Julian Ford, a psychiatry professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center, said the videos “show adults using force and coercion in ways that worsen — or actually create — conflict by provoking and escalating youths’ stress reactions.”

Staff members say they are just using the training they have received.

“In order for YSOs to do their work safely and effectively, we need more support from our agency. We need training moments, not ‘Gotcha’ moments. We are striving to do the best we can,” said Register.

“You don’t hear about all the times that staff are talking to kids, building relationships. There are a 1,000 times a day things are deescalated as a result of relations,” said Paula Dillon, a teacher at CJTS.

Staff members explained to reporters last week at their union hall in New Britain what preceded the incidents on the videos and shared stories of the good work that takes place inside the facilities. The unionized mental health professionals that work at the correction centers did not attend the event and have not yet publicly spoken.

Surveillance videos from CJTS

With the release of the videos and the sudden changes that have been made by top officials at DCF and the public spotlight on them, they say it is hard for them to do their jobs.

“Right now our structure is compromised. Our safety is compromised and security is compromised and we are just doing our best to hold it together,” said Levok. “It is very difficult for our managers to know what to tell us. The direction that we are headed in and what to do a lot of the YSOs and staff in general are unclear what their role is. They’re doing their best to use the training.”

DCF officials have said they are working to train staff on trauma-informed best practices that refrain from using restraints and seclusion.

“The men and women working at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and the Pueblo Girls Unit have extremely demanding jobs,” said DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt “The quality of these programs depends on our staff, so it is the department’s responsibility to provide them with our fullest support… We are committed to reducing the use of restraints whenever possible because we are convinced that will be better for youth and safer for staff.  We thank our staff at these programs for the hard work and dedication that they bring every day as they care for these youth. We know how difficult their jobs are and will do everything possible to support the staff in helping the youth. This includes reducing physical interventions.”

Asked if any of the incidents on the videos on the tapes were problematic, staff members who met with reporters last week said no.

hose videos just portrayed us in that one moment. It just looks like people ganging up on kids and restraining them. It never goes like that. There is a great deal of counseling that goes on before anything happens physically with youth,” said James Core, a youth service officer of nine years.

Frontline staff described the hours of talking with youngsters about their problems and the “watch sheets” that show staff checking in on he children when they are in seclusion.

“There’s staff right outside the doors, watching and checking on them,” said Levok.

While she respects their perspective, Eagan said, her investigation revealed that the staff relies too heavily on restraint and closed-door seclusion as opposed to therapeutic interventions and that the agency was unwilling to investigate her concerns.

“These issues are not created by staff and are not unique to Connecticut, but rather can be found in juvenile prisons around the country,” she said. “The videos depict common protocols and procedures in the facility and the additional harms that come to youth and staff through depicted interventions.”

Kristy Ramsey, assistant superintendent of CJTS

In the case of Jennie’s handling, DCF officials have also concluded that their personnel acted improperly, though no staff members have been disciplined for their conduct. Jennie ultimately injured herself after the incident and was hospitalized.

“We recognized immediately that that was not the best way to handle that situation and that was the finding of our own internal review,” Kristy Ramsey, the assistant superintendent of the facility told state legislators two days after the release of the videos.

So far, the legislative hearings about CJTS  have included testimony from DCF officials and mental health experts. No hearings have taken place where the public has had a chance to testify, though top legislators have said they plan to hold one.

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Hartford Educator Receives Award for Service

HARTFORD —  A Hartford educator was honored by the  Department of Education for demonstrating “exceptional skill and dedication” on her job at the L.W. Batchelder Elementary School in Hartford.

Denise R. Seel, a Lisbon resident, was named the 2016 Paraeducator of the Year by  Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell. Wentzell was joined Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Hartford Public School officials on Monday to announce the news.

The Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year Program recognizes outstanding paraeducator contributions to schools and communities. The program honors one paraeducator who has demonstrated exceptional skill and dedication in the performance of his/her job, thereby earning them the respect and admiration of students, teachers, administrators, coworkers, and parents.

Paraeducators assist certified teachers in the classroom and play a vital role in supporting students and creating a learning environment that engages the whole child.

“Educators are our most important resource—Connecticut is honored to count Denise Seel among them,” said Lt. Governor Wyman. “I want to congratulate Denise on receiving the Paraeducator of the Year award, but more importantly, thank her and the many others who are tireless in their commitment to our students and their futures.”

“We are so fortunate and so proud to have Denise Seel in our district.  She exemplifies the best that our paraeducators have to offer our students; bringing personal and professional commitment to this very important work,” said Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools Beth Schiavino-Narvaez.

The Connecticut Paraeducator of the Year Award was named in honor of Anne Marie Murphy, a special education paraprofessional, who was killed in Newtown in 2013.


Ms. Seel was chosen among three finalists, 10 semi-finalists, and 40 district Paraeducators of the Year.  The rigorous selection process, which includes candidate applications and interviews, was conducted by representatives of the School Paraprofessional Advisory Council comprised of former state Paraeducators of the Year and representatives from educational organizations and collective bargaining.


Connecticut’s Paraeducator of the Year is selected from approximately 14,000 public school paraeducators in the state and represents the profession in forums and advisory committees impacting education policy and public awareness of the successes that take place daily in schools, as well as the challenges they face.


Ms. Seel’s career as a paraeducator spans 21 years and began in 1993 at LEARN in southeastern Connecticut shortly before her son, Jamie, passed away. Jamie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy around the age of two and throughout the 17 years that he lived, she learned that her passion to help children, adults and families was going to be a lifelong commitment.  This led to a working career focused on the education of children with multiple disabilities, complex medical needs and the behaviorally challenged.


Ms. Seel obtained an associate’s degree from Three Rivers Community College and she believes that “all paraeducators who work in a school should be able to recognize every student’s potential.” While working as a paraeducator she pursued and obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Charter Oak State College as a way to provide excellence in education for all students.


Ms. Seel and her husband, Richard, have a son, Dr. Darren Seel, who lives with his wife, Megan, in West Charlton, N.Y. with their grandson, Samuel Seel. She will succeed 2015 Connecticut Paraeducator of the Year Geraldine Lavallee, who is a Behavior Coach at Squadron Line Elementary School in Simsbury. Ms. Lavallee will conclude her term as Paraeducator of the Year on December 31.


Ms. Seel will be honored at a ceremony on October 1, 2016 at the Four Points Sheraton in Meriden.

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Hartford Police Make Arrest for Prospect Street Homicide

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford Police arrested a  suspect in the August shooting on South Prospect Street.

The suspect, Anthony Christiana, 38, of Henry Street in Hartford.  He was charged with murder, criminal possession of a firearm, criminal use of a firearm and conspiracy to commit murder.

Police said that at approximately 11:57 p.m. the Hartford Police Department received several 911 reports of shots fired and a male victim shot at 52-K South Prospect Street. On arrival, a male victim was located suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to his upper torso. The victim was subsequently pronounced deceased on scene by the responding paramedics at 12:34 a.m on Sept. 1, 2015.

The victim is identified as William Prieto, 32, of 52 Prospect St. in Hartford.

The suspect was identified as  On Sept. 23 and he was  picked up and arrested for violation of probation (unrelated charges) on Tuesday Sept.  22, 2015.

Christiana is being held on a $1,000,000 bond. The investigation is on-going at this time.

Christiana is a convicted Felon with 9 previous Hartford arrests, police said.

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Car Hits Two Pedestrians in East Hartford, Streets Closed

EAST HARTFORD — Main Street in East Hartford was closed after a car struck two people Sunday night and police were investigating.

At about  7  p.m. police responded to a report of two injured pedestrians at 1209 Main St.  The two victims, only identified as a male and a female, were taken to a nearby hospital with non life-threatening injuries, police said.

The driver, identified only as a male, stayed on scene and cooperated with police.

Main Street was initially shut down between Burnside Avenue and Prospect Street at 7:30 p.m. while police investigated.

  The entire road reopened around 11:30 p.m.

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