It’s been 10 years since the deadliest K-12 school shooting in U.S. history reignited conversations about safety, gun laws, and student well-being that continue today.
On Dec. 14, 2012, a 20-year-old former Newtown, Conn., student burst into the town’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 young children and six adults with a powerful rifle before killing himself as first responders arrived.
What followed was an immediate push for new gun laws, including universal background checks, that later stalled in Congress; hundreds of state bills designed to prevent future tragedies; and a long road of grief for the community.
Education Week published two stories this week to commemorate the tragedy:
- Three victims’ mothers discussed mourning their private losses in public, and how schools can support students in remembering trauma on major milestone dates.
- Two organizations launched after the tragedy show how it has changed school safety discussions by emphasizing prevention.
Here is a look back, in photos, of some of the political—and personal—effects of the tragedy.
Confronting conspiracy theories
Families and survivors have faced swirls of conspiracy theories and threats since the shooting. In October, a court ordered fringe media figure Alex Jones to pay nearly $1 billion in damages after a group of families successfully sued him for defamation. Jones had repeatedly and falsely asserted the shooting had been staged to win support for tougher gun laws.
Some Newtown students, educators, and families have linked with other communities following subsequent school shootings, making a push for gun control. After a May shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, they helped support the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first piece of major gun legislation to pass Congress in nearly 30 years. Some continue to fight for a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons, like the rifle used in the Sandy Hook shooting.
The nation saw a swell of youth activism after the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Some Newtown students, including some who’d lost friends and loved ones in the 2012 shooting, had already been active in pushing for new gun laws. Events like March for Our Lives brought fresh interest to their efforts.
A new Sandy Hook
Newtown schools opened a new Sandy Hook school in 2016 to replace the former building, which was torn down after the attack.
Architects designed the building to promote safety without feeling like a cold fortress. It includes warm wood walls, open hallways that allow adults to monitor entrances, and plenty of natural light.
A failed push
Following the shooting, some families joined then-President Barack Obama to push for apackage of new gun laws, which never saw a vote in Congress.
President Joe Biden, who was then vice president, led that effort.. Biden has recently revived discussions of a ban on assault-style weapons, which would face strong political headwinds.
‘A club no one wants to join’
Leaders of schools and districts that had dealt with prior acts of gun violence reached out to Newtown officials in the days after the event, offering support and guidance. In the time since, principals who’ve led schools in the aftermath of shootings have formed a support network and issued guidance for their peers to use in the event of a crisis.