Connecticut mayor under fire for comments about school district’s special needs students

A Connecticut mayor is facing backlash after he made disparaging comments about the school district’s special needs students during a council meeting on Monday, according to a report.

Enfield Mayor Ken Nelson Jr. sparked outrage when he responded to a member of the Enfield Chapter of Standing up for Racial Justice, who noted at the April 15 meeting that district data from the 2022-2023 school year suggested a disproportionate number of students of color and students with disabilities had been arrested or suspended, NBC Connecticut reported

“I don’t care if they are white, Black, green or orange, if they are threatening harm to another student in school, they deserve to be suspended,” Nelson said at the conclusion of the public comment portion of the meeting.

“That falls for special needs, too,” the Republican continued. “Unfortunately special needs has gotten so out of control in this country, any child that needed a spanking at 2 years old, when he’s 16 and doesn’t want to listen, he’s special needs now.”

Enfield Mayor Ken Nelson Jr. is facing backlash over comments he made about special needs students.

The mayor’s comments irked many parents in the community, who expressed their issue with his statements online.

“I was really, really concerned and deeply upset. It’s something really hard to hear especially as a parent of a child with special needs,” Danielle Girard, a parent in the Enfield school district, told the outlet.

The mayor told The Post that his remarks “were solely based on the accusations presented at the council meeting by a member of the public that our Board of Education and police department are targeting certain groups, and classes of people with the arrests that have happened in the Enfield school system.” 

The mayor made the comments at the April 15 council meeting.

He said 50% of the district’s students are classified as special needs, citing the Enfield Board of Education.

“I find it unrealistic that students who are on free or reduced lunch are grouped in with children that truly have special needs,” he said.

“I think we are diminishing the definition of special needs and the parents of the children who actually need services are pushed aside or have to fight for what their children need. The students in Enfield should not have to be in fear of other students,” Nelson said.

He added that “If someone can produce data that shows that a certain group is truly being targeted, I will be the first in line to address and correct this, but until someone produces those statistics, it is just an unfounded accusation.”

Danielle Girard, a parent in the Enfield school district, said she brought her concerns up with the mayor on Wednesday.

Girard told NBC Connecticut she spoke with Nelson on Wednesday to hear his concerns and to express hers. She said she told him that a special needs designation, such as a her daughters Individualized Educational Plan, are difficult to obtain.

“I just hope that the decisions that he makes, and the comments that he makes, going forward, he really thinks about them because it is really impacting how the town is looking at him,” Girard said.

The Post has reached out to the Enfield Schools Superintendent Christopher Drezek for comment.

Enfield is a town of about 42,000 people in northern Connecticut near the Massachusetts border.

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