Shootout with Bombing Suspects has Negative Impact on Watertown’s Kids

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{NOTE: The story was been updated on June 10, 2014 with more current information on the special education costs the district has spent this year.}

Some children living in the area where Watertown Police faced the Boston Marathon Bombing suspects have had long-term negative effects, which can be seen in the special education budget in town schools, officials said Thursday.

Watertown schools have had a spike in the number of students with mental health problems, which is mostly seen in students who live close to the area of the shoot out – Dexter Avenue and Laurel Street in the East End.

“We have seen high anxiety, older kids not wanting to be home alone and a feeling of hopelessness,” said Arlene Shainker, interim special education director.

When it gets out of hand and affects their school life students are evaluated and sometimes sent to off-campus programs, including even hospitalization, Shainker said.

The Impact

This school year Watertown has had 22 students placed in new out of district programs to meet their special needs, Shainker said, while last school year they had two. Not all are the result problems related to the Watertown shootout, but Shainker said around half.

The impact has been in the Watertown Public Schools budget, which had nearly $1.1 million in special education costs. The district budgeted $400,000 for those costs, so there will be a shortfall of $640,000, said Assistant Superintendent Dari Donovan.

Watertown narrowly missed out on funds that would have helped with the higher than normal special education costs. Watertown applied for Extraordinary Relief from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, but learned they needed to have costs at 125 percent or more of the previous year, but had only 115 percent of the previous year, Shainker said. The money was based on the cases through March 31, and since then more students have move into town, Shainker said.

Fitzgerald said Watertown has also seen more of its share of families moving to town from out-of-state or even overseas to attend special needs programs in or around Watertown.

Marathon Bombing Study

Watertown officials learned about the impact of the shootout from a study being conducted by Boston University researchers. Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald said that she and other school officials got an early preview of the results from the study that looked at students from Watertown as well as others who were near the finish line during the Marathon Bombing.

The study found that children living near the shootout area fared worse than those who witnessed the bombing, Shainker said.

“It is traumatic for everybody, but it is different for something that happens and you can go home to a safe place and something happening in your home,” Shainker said.

2 thoughts on “Shootout with Bombing Suspects has Negative Impact on Watertown’s Kids

  1. Good article and details about affects of Watertown bombers to our community. Would you consider writing about St. Stephen’s Armenian Elentary that was literally in the middle of the situation and what struggles we’re going through? All schools have been implementing safety improvements to further secure the children but our school is especially challenged due to budget constraints and a publically owned building in which the school resides. We have also been informed there are several anti-Armenian persons in our community that pose threats. I’d like to talk to you so I can elaborate on the details. Thank you.
    Talene McCarthy, Ssaes board member and safety committee lead

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