David DesRoches | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

David DesRoches

Reporter

David finds and tells stories about education and learning for WNPR radio and its website. He also teaches journalism and media literacy to high school students, and he starts the year with the lesson: “Conflicts of interest: Real or perceived? Both matter.” He thinks he has a sense of humor, and he also finds writing in the third person awkward, but he does it anyway. 

He's won some awards. He's lost some, too. Winning is better, but does it really matter? What matters is the work and its impact. Here are some of his stories that matter: special education; toxic PCBs in schools; hate crime; environmental damages; students with emotional disabilities suspended at high rates; sexual assault cover-up; deaf children and the choices their parents face

He believes that journalism should hold the powerful to account and shed light on misunderstood and underserved populations. Much of his work has focused on people with disabilities. His coverage of systemic civil rights violations by a wealthy public school system against students with disabilities ended in numerous resignations and state legislation to address the flaws exposed. His report on toxic PCBs in aging schools for Reveal led two senators to independently call for an investigation into the EPA. The documentary on deafness, called “Making Sense,” has been described as the most multimedia project in the 40-plus year history of Connecticut Public.

The intersection of race, disability, and behavior is also a topic of interest, as are the various forms of cultural expression, and how they're often mischaracterized and misunderstood.

In addition to education coverage, he's reported on environmental topics, such as human waste and the use of biosolids on farms, and a dangerous publicly-funded pesticide program. He's also reported on sexual assault cases; prosecutorial misconduct during a hate crime trial; the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting-death in Ferguson, Mo. Some of these stories have led to congressional investigations and actual legislation at the state level. His work has appeared on NPR, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, and numerous local and regional newspapers.

Ways to Connect

Chion Wolf WNPR

Alcoholism and sexual assaults on college campuses continue to make headlines across the country, but for one college president, part of the solution could involve simply increasing diversity among the student body.

Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president of Trinity College in Hartford, told WNPR’s Where We Live that by actively creating an environment that reflects the diversity of the state’s capital, students would be exposed to different values that might alleviate some of the social and cultural pressures that lead to alcohol and drug abuse, as well as sexual misconduct.

BeyondDifferences.org

Laura Talmus experienced that most unthinkable of events for a parent. Her daughter, Lili, died in her sleep after only 15 years of life. Her death was due to complications with a cranial facial syndrome, but her mother, Laura, said that while Lili was alive, she also suffered from an often-unnoticed affliction: social isolation.

“When Lili passed away, it was a group of her peers who came up to me and said that they had really not realized that by leaving Lili out from a lot of the social structure of middle school, but particularly at lunch, they felt terrible and they wanted to know what they could do,” Talmus said.

So Talmus and Lili's classmates got together and went to other middle schools to see if students noticed anyone eating alone or without friends. The response, she said, was overwhelming.

Harriet Jones / WNPR

Approaches to getting information and making decisions for Connecticut school closings vary widely among the state's towns. For some school districts, it’s almost like a science. 

Take Torrington, for example. The district pays about $3,000 a year to a weather alert service in Burlington for daily weather updates and for consulting services. This helps officials determine if and when to close school due to bad weather.

Aundreá Murray / WNPR

State officials gathered at the capital city on Wednesday to announce a new initiative aimed at ending homelessness among veterans and the disabled within the next two years.

Discrimination claims from people across Connecticut led the U.S. Attorney’s Office to announce that it would form a working group to investigate possible civil rights violations by public and private schools and childcare programs.

Wikimedia Commons

A Catholic school in Meriden that's over a century old will close at the end of the year as enrollment, finances, and demographics continue to change the state of parochial schools in the Nutmeg State. 

David DesRoches

Nate Quesnel, the superintendent of schools in East Hartford, told a story about a student sitting in the back of the classroom, a wool cap pulled over his eyebrows, his faced glued to a cell phone, his fingers attacking the screen in a gaming frenzy.

"Right away, I recoiled inside," Quesnel said. "I felt embarrassed." He was embarrassed because at the time, an executive from Xerox was presenting the students with information on job skills, including how to act during an interview.

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