Published Online: December 10, 2013

Sandy Hook: Words and Actions

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The months following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School were filled with emotional responses from victims' family members and influential educational and political leaders. Here's a sampling of their remarks and the actions that followed.

Click the photographs to read the remarks.

Nicole Hockley, Mother of 6-year-old Dylan

"I still find myself reaching for Dylan's hand to walk through a parking lot or expecting him to crawl into bed beside me for early morning cuddles before we get ready for school. It's so hard to believe he's gone. … I've had the honor to meet people from similar events at Aurora, Columbine, and Virginia Tech and hope that they can teach us ways to help heal our families and town. I do not want to be someone sharing my experience and consoling another parent next time. I do not want there to be another next time." (Jan. 14, 2013)

In the last year, Ms. Hockley collaborated with former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and a teacher to write an anti-violence lesson plan for schools. The resulting "Hands of Hope for Sandy Hook" materials are hosted on the UClass.org website

President Barack Obama

"In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens—from law enforcement to mental-health professionals to parents and educators—in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can't accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?" (Dec. 16, 2012)

The centerpiece of Mr. Obama's post-Newtown legislative efforts, a set of new policies related to the sale and use of certain types of firearms, failed in Congress. Politicians' positions on the proposed bills became divisive subjects in many campaigns. In January, the president announced 23 executive actions designed to reduce gun violence. They included several steps to improve the federal background check system, a memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the causes of gun violence, and the development of model emergency-response plans for schools and colleges.

Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, National Rifle Association

"As brave, heroic, and self-sacrificing as those teachers were in those classrooms, and as prompt, professional, and well-trained as those police were when they responded, they were—through no fault of their own—unable to stop it. As parents, we do everything we can to keep our children safe. It is now time for us to assume responsibility for their safety at school. The only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." (Dec. 21, 2012)

The NRA released its "Report of the National School Shield Task Force" on April 2, 2013. Its recommendations include easing restrictions many states have on allowing anyone other than a sworn law enforcement officer to carry a gun on school grounds and passing state laws requiring schools to assess their security risks and create security plans. Several states have enacted such policy changes, but many other proposals failed in state legislatures.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

"And when it comes to preventing future acts of violence in our schools, let me say this: More guns are not the answer. Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom. That is not who we are in Connecticut, and it is not who we will allow ourselves to become." (Jan. 9, 2013)

Gov. Malloy, a Democrat, on April 4 signed into law a bill that created a statewide school safety council, revived a competitive grant program funding security improvements, and instituted new restrictions on high-capacity magazines and certain kinds of firearms.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

"Our schools should and must be one of the safest places in society. Now it is time for another, quieter heroism in our schools—the courage to move forward, to continue to teach and lead children, and to take smart precautions to minimize the risk of future tragedies. The challenge after Sandy Hook of trying to explain the inexplicable to young children is very real. But teachers, principals, and school staff are also feeling fragile. They want to be sure kids get the mental-health services they need to prevent future tragedies." (Dec. 19, 2012)

The Education Department awarded a $1.3 million Project School Emergency Response to Violence grant to the Newtown school district to fund a school-based behavioral and academic-recovery program.

Vol. 33, Issue 14
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