Following Shooting, Focus Shifts to School Safety, Gun Laws

By Nirvi Shah — December 16, 2012 3 min read
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As the mourning in the Newtown, Conn., continues today, school district officials and law enforcement are still grappling with how and when to resume classes. Simultaneously, the national conversation has shifted slightly from outrage and grief to a discussion about gun-control laws.

During a brief press conference held by the Connecticut State Police today, Lt. J. Paul Vance said all school safety plans are being re-examined in anticipation of classes resuming across the state Monday.

“State police, local police, leaders in school systems are doing everything they can to make sure schools are safe,” Vance said.

When and where Sandy Hook students will resume classes is still being decided. A district official told Education Week on Saturday that the district is still searching for a location for holding classes.

Newtown police Lt. George Sinko said it would be important to keep the students together, wherever the district finds a place for them.

When asked whether Newtown students would ever be able to attend classes in the part of Sandy Hook where students were murdered, Sinko said, “At this time, it’s too early to say. I would find it very difficult for them to do that.”

Recalling the Horror, Healing

On the “Today Show” this morning, Sandy Hook math and science specialist Kris Feda recounted Friday’s events.

“We were holding a parent meeting and many of the leaders in the building were around the table and we heard the first gunshots,” she said, “We knew exactly they were gunshots.”

She said school leaders leaped into action.

“Then immediately the leaders in our building did what they needed to do and they ran out the door knowing that the gunfire was showering the hallways and the classrooms and it was nonstop,” Feda said.

“The gunshots finally stopped, we still were all in panic. That’s when the state police arrived.”

She continued to describe the scene afterward: “The looks on the parents’ faces, just searching for their children. And when they reunited with their children at the firehouse you just could see the relief pouring over them.”

Feda vowed: “We are going to pick up the pieces somehow. We’re going to stick together and in time we’ll heal.”

Arming School Staff?

Earlier in the day, on “Meet the Press,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten quickly shot down a proposal by former U.S. Education Secretary William J. Bennett to arm at least one person in every school building.

Their brief exchange was part of a larger discussion about gun control laws.

Bennett, acknowledging he might get “nailed for this,” said “I’m not so sure I wouldn’t want one person in a school armed,” noting that at Sandy Hook, Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Scherlach “confronted the shooter when he shot his way into the school Friday morning.

During the discussion, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., pledged to introduce legislation that would ban assault weapons, their “sale, transfer, importation, and possession. It will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips” of ammunition, she said, and she said the proposal will have U.S. House sponsors.

Feinstein is the author of the 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act, which requires the expulsion of students who bring firearms on campus.

Weingarten said that while the gun-control conversation is an important one, it must be concurrent with a discussion about how to improve services and treatment of people with mental illness. It is still unclear if suspected shooter Adam Lanza suffered from mental illness or any other disorder.

The AFT president also pleaded with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to veto a bill that would allow concealed weapons in schools.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.