Newtown teachers want big and small security fixes

Newtown teachers want big and small security fixes

by SUSAN HIGH

Associated Press/ January 25, 2013

Some Newtown teachers remain frightened after last month’s deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and want to make sure steps both large and small are taken to better secure their schools others across Connecticut.

Thomas Kuroski, president of the Newtown Federation of Teachers, said some of the issues may seem minor, such as making sure classroom doors can be locked from the inside. But after what Newtown’s teachers have experienced, he said, such issues have become large.

“Because we were ground zero here, there is going to be a heightened awareness of security concerns, which is going to lead to a sense of vulnerability which might trump what some other district might have with security issues,” Kuroski told The Associated Press. He appeared Friday at a public hearing held by the legislative working group charged with reviewing school safety following the Dec. 14 shooting, which left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.

Kuroski suggested that the General Assembly create some kind of an oversight committee, possibly within the Department of Education, that could visit school districts across the state, review and assess their security plans, determine whether they’re meeting a baseline, help them craft security plans based on the particular needs of their district, and provide funding to help pay for improvements.

‘‘You can’t throw the same blanket over every single school and say it fits,’’ he said.

The legislative working group and two others — one on mental health and one on gun violence prevention — have until Feb. 15 to forward recommendations for legislation to the General Assembly. Members have been urged to try to reach as much consensus as possible.

Kuroski and other advocates for educators asked state lawmakers not to try to turn schools into fortresses because a facility, like Sandy Hook- which had a buzz-in system and a principal who regularly conducted lock-down drills- was attacked. Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools, said the principals and vice presidents her group represents want to make sure schools remain special, nurturing places to learn and socialize.

Kuroski and other advocates for educators asked state lawmakers not to try to turn schools into fortresses because a facility like Sandy Hook — which had a buzz-in system and a principal who regularly conducted lockdown drills — was attacked. Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools, said the principals and vice presidents her group represents want to make sure schools remain special, nurturing places to learn and socialize.

‘‘They very much want to balance security with a culture of warmth and welcome,’’ she said.

There were also proposals on Friday to fund more school resource officers, typically armed and uniformed local police officers; provide more funding for school psychologists, social workers and counselors; and provide additional funding for security upgrades that are not at the expense of other state education aid.

In Newtown, steps are under way to beef up security at all seven schools. Enough high-tech security equipment has been donated to overhaul the former Chalk Hill school in Monroe where the Sandy Hook students are now attending, as well as the other Newtown schools. Kuroski, who was recently appointed to a district-wide security committee, said he believes many of his fellow teachers’ concerns have already been addressed or eventually will be addressed.

But in the meantime, Kuroski said Newtown teachers are experiencing a range of emotions since the shooting.

‘‘You have teachers who are ready to hit the ground running the next day and you have teachers who are confused and not sure how to feel and then you have teachers who are very, very scared and are not comfortable in that environment,’’ said Kuroski, who met with every teacher after the massacre to check on their well-being.

The typical sounds of a busy school day, such as lockers and doors slamming and books falling off desks, now spark reactions that never would happened before.

‘‘People are jumping. People are always on the verge of being upset,’’ Kuroski said, adding that most teachers want the two police officers who’ve been assigned to every Newtown school since the shooting to remain there indefinitely.

Kuroski said some Sandy Hook teachers have not yet returned to work, but he didn’t know how many. Others who came back felt they needed to take time off. Throughout the district, he said, there is ‘‘a sense of sadness that we’ve lost what we used to have in this district,’’ which is known for having well-performing schools.

“We’re not the same anymore,” he said.

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Images from December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut

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Pictured above is the first-grade class of Victoria Soto, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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An Aerial View from Google Maps of Sandy Hook School.

 

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An Aerial View of Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012, as police conducted their initial investigations. If I am correct, one of the black cars parked at the front entrance of the school was driven by Adam Lanza.

 

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The black car pictured above is the car that Adam Lanza used to drive to Sandy Hook Elementary School on the morning of December 14, 2012. The car is a black Honda Civic.

 

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A close-up of the make-shift police center/station on December 14, 2012, following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

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The car that was driven by Adam Lanza to Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012, is pictured above being towed.

 

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Emergency responders and stretchers occupy the parking lot of Sandy Hook Elementary School during the first few hours after the shooting.

 

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Another close-up of an aerial view of Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, following the shooting.

Sandy Hook Security Policy

(WTNH)–This is the school security policy letter that went out to Sandy Hook Elementary School parents at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.

Dear Members of our Sandy Hook Family,

Our district will be implementing a security system in all elementary schools as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure student safety. As usual, exterior doors will be locked during the day. Every visitor will be required to ring the doorbell at the front entrance and the office staff will use a visual monitoring system to allow entry. Visitors will be required to report directly to the office and sign in. If our office staff does not recognize you, you will be required to show identification with a picture ID. Please understand that with nearly 700 students and over 1000 parents representing 500 SHS families, most parents will be asked to show identification.

Doors will be locked approximately 9:30 a.m. Any student arriving after that time must be walked into the building and signed in at the office. Before that time, our regular drop-off procedures will be in place. I encourage all parents to have their children come to school and return home on the bus and to remain in school for the entire school day. The beginning and ending of our school day are also important instructional times and therefore we want all our students to reap the benefits of full participation in our program.

We need your help and cooperation for our system to work effectively. Our office staff is handling multiple tasks. Though they will work diligently to help you into the building as quickly as possible, there may be a short delay until someone can view you on the handset and allow you to come in electronically. There are times during the day when office personnel are on the telephone, addressing student concerns, or in the copy room; there are other times when only one person is in the front office. Please help our staff by identifying yourself and provide your child’s name. Keep in mind we will be following our district guidelines which may need revision once we test the system.

Please know your involvement continues to be critical to our school’s effectiveness and your child’s success. We continue to encourage and value your presence in our classrooms and are counting on your cooperation with the implementation of this safety initiative.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Hochsprung

Tales of Sandy Hook heroism, young and old

One of the original news reports on the Sandy Hook massacre, December, 14, 2012.

Stories of heroism by adults and children are emerging from Sandy Hook Elementary School. School therapist, Diane Day, described how principal Dawn Hochsprung and a school psychologist, identified as Mary Sherlach, leaped from their seats and ran out of a meeting when they heard gunshots. “They didn’t think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on,” she told the Wall Street Journal.

Hochsprung and Sherlach were shot dead in the hallway, according to news reports.

Sandy Hook’s lead teacher pressed her body against the meeting room’s door, which did not have a lock, Day said. The gunman shot through the door, wounding the unidentified teacher in an arm and a leg. “She was our hero,” Day said.

Parent Robert Licata told WABC-TV that the gunman burst into the classroom of his 6-year-old son and shot the teacher without saying a word.

“That’s when my son grabbed a bunch of his friends and ran out the door,” he said. “He was very brave. He waited for his friends.”

First-grade teacher, Kaitlyn Roig, said she was in a morning meeting when she heard what sounded like automatic gunfire. She then locked her classroom door and herded her students into the bathroom, where the locked them in and blocked the door with a tall storage unit.

Teacher, Laura Feinstein, told WTOP-FM, that she hid with students under desks and shelves after hearing gunshots.

She hurried two children into her classroom in the back of the school, locked the door and tried calling the office. She hid with four students under the computer desks and shelves and tried calling 911 but had no cell reception. She then texted her husband.

“We just kept hearing shots and shots and shots. There were a lot of them, and I was just praying that someone would come and save us and we kept waiting and eventually they did,” Feinstein said.

Feinstein said the intercom was left on, and among the bits of conversation she eventually heard a clear voice say,” You’re safe, we’re here, it’s OK.” She then knew that help was on the way.

Feinstein said the 40 minutes that passed before someone escorted her and the students out of the building “felt like an eternity.”

Contributing: Oren Dorell

 

 

Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting

One of the original news reports on the Sandy Hook massacre, December 14, 2012.

Authorities in Connecticut responded to a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Friday morning, the local NBC station reports.

Police reported 27 deaths, including 20 children, six adults, and the shooter, according to the Associated Press. Following hours of uncertainty, during which many media outlets reported the shooter’s identity as Ryan Lanza, an official identified the suspected gunman as Adam Lanza, Ryan’s 20-year-old brother, according the Associated Press. Ryan Lanza, 24, is being questioned by police in New Jersey.

Adam Lanza Latest: State Police Reacting to Conspiracy Claims?

by Jim Kane

January 19, 2013 1:55 PM

The Internet is rife with Adam Lanza conspiracy theories, which makes the timing of Friday’s press release from the Connecticut State Police very strange indeed. It’s been over a month since the Sandy Hook rampage,and for some bizarre reason, trooper spokesman J. Paul Vance has decided to reiterate which weapons were used during the massacre. Why now? Is it because people are discovering holes in the official version of events? Hmm.

“To eliminate any confusion of misinformation, we will again describe and identify the weapons seized at the school crime scene,” Vance stated Friday in a press release. The firearms used inside the grade school, Vance said, were a Sig-Sauer P226, a Glock 10 mm, and a Bushmaster .223 rifle (commonly known as an assault weapon).

He also noted that a 12 gauge shotgun was seized from the trunk of Adam Lanza’s car in the parking lot. So, the police are pretty much restating what they’ve been saying all along. But again, the timing of the press release is quite unusual. Perhaps the authorities are starting to worry about all the “Newtown Shooting Hoax” hoopla.

One Youtube video, “The Sandy Hook-Full Exposed”, has garnered more than 10 million page views and counting. Millions of Americans are beginning to wonder whether there is more to this tragedy, than they’ve been led to believe. Lanza, a 20-year-old Autistic man, from Newtown, CT, turned the gun on himself after murdering 26 people inside Sandy Hook Elementary School last month.

 

Life Behind the Picture: The Liberation of Buchenwald

Survivors gaze at photographer Margaret Bourke-White and rescuers from the United States Army during the liberation of Buchenwald, April 1945.

A Czech doctor (right) prepares to examine a Buchenwald concentration camp inmate while other inmates surround him, awaiting treatment, April 1945.

Examining Buchenwald prisoners after the camp’s liberation by U.S. troops, April 1945.

The caption that accompanied this image when it appeared in the May 7, 1945, issue of LIFE: “Deformed by malnutrition, a Buchenwald prisoner leans against his bunk after trying to walk. Like other imprisoned slave laborers, he worked in a Nazi factory until too feeble.”

Prisoners, too emaciated to walk, at Buchenwald during the camp’s liberation by American forces, April 1945.

Prisoners at Buchenwald gaze from behind barbed wire during the camp’s liberation by American forces, April 1945.

The dead at Buchenwald, April 1945.

The remains of an incinerated prisoner inside a Buchenwald cremation oven, April 1945.

A newly liberated prisoner stands beside a pile of human ashes and bones, Buchenwald, April 1945.

Prisoners at Buchenwald display their identification tattoos shortly after camp’s liberation by Allied forces, April 1945.

German civilians are forced by American troops to bear witness to Nazi atrocities at Buchenwald concentration camp, mere miles from their own homes, April 1945.

German civilians are forced by American troops to bear witness to Nazi atrocities at Buchenwald concentration camp, mere miles from their own home, April 1945.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside a Nazi Christmas Party, 1941

Scene from a Christmas party in Munich thrown by Adolf Hitler for his generals, 1941.

 

The images are chilling, bordering on surreal: On December 18, 1941, as World War II rages and the horrors of the Third Reich’s “final solution” grow ever clearer- killing operations at the Chelmno death camp, for instance, began less than two weeks earlier- Adolf Hitler presides over a Christmas party in Munich. Stark swastika armbands jarringly offset the glint of ornaments and tinsel dangling from a giant Tannenbaum; candles illuminate the festive scene. Confronted with the scene, a viewer might reasonably ask, How could Nazi leaders reconcile an idealogy of hatred and conquest with the peaceful, joyous spirit of the holiday- much less its celebration of the birth of the Jewish Christ?

We cannot accept that a German Christmas tree has anything to do with a crib in a manger in Bethlehem. It is inconceivable for us that Christmas and all its deep soulful content is the product of an oriental religion.

Those were words of Nazi propagandist Freidrich Rehm in 1937, in pre-war attempts to take “oriental” religion out of the holiday by harking back to the pagan Yule, an ancient Northern European festival of the winter solstice.

As for the religious views of Hitler himself, the evidence is conflicting:In public statements he sometimes praised Christianity (once called it “the foundation of our national morality”), but in private conversations-including one recalled by the Third Reich’s official architect, Albert Speer- the Fuhrer is said to have abhorred the faith for what he deemed its “meekness and flabbiness.” Hitler did, however, fervently worship one thing above all else: the so-called Aryan race. And by the time Hugo Jaegar took the photos seen here, Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, commanding general of the SS,had articulated and launched their plan for creating a “master” race- via, in large part, the mass murder of Europe’s Jews and other “undesirables.”

 

After the Fall: Photos of Hitler’s bunker and the Ruins of Berlin

William Vandivert- Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Oberwallstrasse, in central Berlin,saw some of the most vicious fighting between German and Soviet troops in the spring of 1945.

A new view of a photograph that appeared, heavily cropped, in LIFE, picturing Hitler’s bunker, partially burned by retreating troops and stripped of valuables by invading Russians.

In typed notes that William Vandivert sent to LIFE’s New York offices after getting to Berlin, he described his intense, harried visit to Hitler’s bunker: “These pix were made in the dark with only candle for illumination… Our small party of four beat all rest of mob who came down about forty minutes after we got there.” Above: A 16th century painting reportedly stolen from a Milam museum.

With only candles to light their way, war correspondents examine a couch stained with blood (see dark patch on the arm of the sofa) located inside Hitler’s bunker.

Abandoned furniture and debris inside Adolf Hitler’s bunker, Berlin, 1945.

An SS officer’s cap, with the infamous death’s-head skull emblem barely visible.

LIFE correspondent Percy Knauth, left, sifts through debris in the shallow trench in the garden of the Reich Chancellery where, Knauth was told, the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were burned after their suicides.

An American soldier, PFC Douglas Page, offers a mocking Nazi salute inside the bombed-out ruins of the Berliner Sportspalast, or Sport Palace. The venue, destroyed during an Allied bombing raid in January 1944, was where the Third Reich often held political rallies.

At the Reichstag, evidence of a practice common throughout the centuries: soldiers scrawling graffiti to honor fallen comrades, insult the vanquished or simply announce,I was here. I survived. Berlin, 1945.

An image almost too perfectly symbolic of Berlin in 1945: A crushed globe and a bust of Hitler amid rubble outside the ruined Reich Chancellery.

 

 

 

 

Lanza Family Portrait is Both Normal and Not

By John Voket

Those who knew her, either as neighborhood friends or individuals who worked at her Yogananda Street home, describe the mother and first victim of Sandy Hook School shooter, Adam Lanza, as a warm, caring parent and one who welcomed service workers like landscapers and painters with a smile and kind sentiment.

Dan Holmes of Holmes Fine Gardens, a local landscape design firm, worked at Nancy Lanza’s residence- some times on a weekly basis- over the course of several years.

“As recently as my last visit on December 7, Nancy expressed her appreciation to me for the work we did to help to decorate her house,” Mr. Holmes said. “Although I don’t recall ever seeing either of her sons, she spoke about them often.”

He said Nancy Lanza was meticulous in her dress and demeanor, expressed herself clearly but was not demanding in her requests. And while she talked about her sons in as high achievers in school, Mr. Holmes said he had the impression she was much more directly involved with her older son, Ryan, than Adam.

“I remember her telling me about an upcoming trip to New Orleans to go see Trombone Shorty, and that she was taking her older son,” Mr. Holmes said. “But her younger son wanted to stay home.”

He also recalled the day when Nancy Lanza called him into to her garage to show off an expensive new rifle she had just received, and that she previously talked about growing up on a farm and being exposed to and developing an affinity for target shooting in her younger years.

“She was not a hunter,” he said. “But she grew up on a farm in New Hampshire, so she was used to handling firearms. She showed me that beautiful, new rifle, and I thought she was looking forward to doing some target shooting with it.”

“She struck me as a very responsible gun owner,” Mr. Holmes added.

It is possible, however, that there was a period of time between her childhood and her acquaintance with Mr. Holmes that Nancy Lanza was not as interested in firearms. Alex Israel, a former neighbor of the Lanzas and classmate of Adam, said that she “never once heard a thing about the family visiting a shooting range or being involved with guns by any means. I was surprised to hear that in the news.”

She said Nancy Lanza “was always nice to me, she was a kind, typical suburban mom as far as I remember. I ran into her in the supermarket every now and then and she always asked how I was doing.”

Another local individual who asked not to be named, who did work frequently at the Lanza home, said he never saw or was shown any rifles when he was on the premises.

“I know she liked guns and she had a permit to carry one,” he said. “But she grew up on a farm with guns.”

The individual said he considered Nancy Lanza  a friend, and that she was a welcoming and soft spoken individual- a good mom who loved her kids very much.

“I was there a lot and I never heard or saw any signs of fighting, never heard yelling or screaming,” he said. “As far as Adam was concerned, he was just a shy little kid. That’s why what happened is so hard to believe.”

Even as he grew into a high schooler, the workman said, Adam was exactly like many of the other teenagers at other homes where he worked.

“I had limited interaction with Adam. He stayed to himself, worked in his room on computers- a typical young person like all the other kids his age that I know,” the workman said. “There was never an inkling of violent tendencies.”

“Even before Ryan Lanza went away to school, neither one of them cared about me being around and doing what I had to do,” he added. “This is really hard for me. Everyone still needs to remember there is another young man here who has lost his brother and his mother.”

At the same time, the individual said he knows  many of Adam Lanza’s victims.With his voice cracking, “I played with these kids, their parents came to the funeral when one of my parents died.”

Nancy Lanza also attended that funeral.

“She reached out to comfort me after my parent’s passing, and before the death she always asked how everything was going,” he added. “That’s why going to Nancy’s was one of my favorite places to work. She was very sweet.”

Ms. Israel said going back to her and Adam Lanza’s elementary school years, she lived a few houses down, rode the bus with him, and wanted to be his friend.

“We had a couple play dates. He was always different- keeping to himself, fidgeting and very quiet,” she said. “I could always tell he was a super smart kid, maybe just socially awkward, but something was off about him.”

As time went on, she said, Adam continued to keep to himself.

“I branched out more, so there was not much contact with him after middle school. Anytime I saw him on the bus, in the halls, at the cafeteria, he was alone,” Ms. Israel said. “I don’t know if he had any close friends.”

By the time high school came around, she said Adam “sort of disappeared.”

“I’d see him in the halls, walking quickly with his briefcase he carried, but I never had a class with him and never saw him with friends,” she said. “I do know he was involved in the technology club at school. I was yearbook editor and I remember he declined to be photographed or give us a senior quote or baby picture. Otherwise, I can’t say much else about him.”

Regarding the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, however, Mr. Israel, like the community, is still in a state of shock.

“It’s such a devastating tragedy for our close-knit community, something you’d never think would happen where you live, where you’ve grown up safely and soundly your whole life,” she said. “The teachers, students, police,and responders are all heroes for what they’ve done, as are those who died.”

“That something like this could be done by a human at all, let alone to innocent babies and people who devote their lives to helping and teaching them, is a tragedy and a horror that will never be forgotten,” Ms. Israel said. “I think a lot of people are still in disbelief, and will be for awhile. All I want to do is come home, hug my family, and do my best to support my strong community in this difficult time.”