Posts Tagged ‘ Connecticut ’

‘Zero Tolerance’ School Suspension Policy Debated Post-Newtown

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Schools are increasingly debating the value of “zero tolerance” policies of suspending students who make threats in even the most unassuming ways.  In the wake of the tragic Newtown, Connecticut school shooting late last year, some parents are jittery and want school officials to enforce the zero tolerance policy.  Others, however believe that the policies discourage children from finding healthy ways to express anger.  More from The Associated Press:

The extent to which the Newtown, Conn., shooting might influence educators’ disciplinary decisions is unclear. But parents contend administrators are projecting adult fears onto children who know little about the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators, and who certainly pose no threat to anyone.

‘‘It’s horrible what they’re doing to these kids,’’ said Kelly Guarna, whose 5-year-old daughter, Madison, was suspended by Mount Carmel Area School District in eastern Pennsylvania last month for making a ‘‘terroristic threat’’ with the bubble gun. ‘‘They’re treating them as mini-adults, making them grow up too fast, and robbing them of their imaginations.’’

Mary Czajkowski, superintendent of Barnstable Public Schools in Hyannis, Mass., acknowledged that Sandy Hook has teachers and parents on edge. But she defended Hyannis West Elementary School’s warning to a 5-year-old boy who chased his classmates with a gun he’d made from plastic building blocks, saying the student didn’t listen to the teacher when she told him repeatedly to stop.

The school told his mother if it happened again, he’d face a two-week suspension.

‘‘Given the heightened awareness and sensitivity, we must do all that we can to ensure that all students and adults both remain safe and feel safe in schools,’’ Czajkowski said in a statement. ‘‘To dismiss or overlook an incident that results in any member of our school community feeling unsafe or threatened would be irresponsible and negligent.’’

Image: School sign, via Shutterstock

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Post-Newtown Debate Turns to Whether to Arm School Security

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

School officials across the country are contemplating the horrific events of last week’s shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and asking the question, how can we keep our schools safe? Parents tend to have very strong opinions on the broader question of whether teachers should ever be armed. But a more measured question–whether schools should hire armed security guards–is capturing more attention as the days unfold. The debate is playing out across social media, across dinner tables, and, as The New York Times reports, among school board members nationwide:

“Across the country, some 23,200 schools — about one-third of all public schools — had armed security staff in the 2009-10 school year, the most recent year for which data are available.

Now, in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, school officials across the nation are reviewing security protocols, including lockdown drills and building entry procedures, but also whether to hire more armed guards.

These questions arise amid a broader political and societal debate about gun control. While some people view the prospect of bringing additional guns into schools as fueling a culture of violence, others say children need the protection.

On Sunday, a former education secretary, William J. Bennett, indicated on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would support such measures. “I’m not so sure I wouldn’t want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing,” said Mr. Bennett, who served under President Ronald Reagan.

With national sentiment starting to move in favor of stricter gun laws, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan vetoed a bill on Tuesday that state lawmakers had passed just a day before the shootings in Newtown, allowing registered gun owners to carry concealed weapons in schools. But also on Tuesday, a legislator in South Carolina introduced a similar bill that would allow school employees to carry guns in schools.

The question of whether to place trained security guards with guns in schools is left up to local districts. These officers are charged with protecting students not just from intruders but also from each other. They often conduct classes in preventing gang violence or bullying, as well as handle more prosaic tasks like issuing traffic tickets.

According to the Council of the Great City Schools, cities including Albuquerque, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and St. Louis have armed officers in schools, either contracting with local police forces or recruiting their own dedicated security staff. Other cities, including Boston and New York, place unarmed security officers in schools. Sandy Hook Elementary did not have a security guard on campus.”

Image: School hallway, via Shutterstock

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Newtown Kindergarten, First-Grade Teacher’s Stories Reveal Heroism

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

The heroes of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were, everyone agrees, the teachers, many of whom gave their lives in efforts to protect their students. The story of kindergarten teacher Janet Vollmer and first-grade teacher Kristen Roig, who survived the attacks, are among the inspiring stories. From CNN:

Kindergarten teacher Janet Vollmer knows at least half of the killed children.

“Ten of them were in my class last year,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Sunday. “It’s tough. It’s tough.”

When the shots rang out, Vollmer locked her classroom door, covered the windows, including the one in the door, then took the children into a nook between bookcases and a wall.

She read them a story to keep them calm.

“They kept saying ‘How come we’re here for so long?’ ‘Well, it will be a little longer.’ ” she answered. “When they’re 5, you do whatever you can to keep them safe and keep them calm.”

“We’re going to be safe,” Vollmer told them, “because we’re sitting over here and we’re all together.”

First-grade teacher Kristen Roig herded her students into a bathroom, locked the door and told them not to make a peep.

They got impatient, antsy, wanted someone to go out and see what was happening. No, she told them. She was afraid they would all die.

“If they started crying, I would take their face and tell them, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ I wanted that to be the last thing they heard,” she said, “not the gunfire in the hall.”

The wait dragged on, Vollmer said.

“Maybe it was 20 minutes, a half-hour; I’m not sure.”

Police knocked at the door to take them all out. They instructed her to have the schoolchildren hold hands and close their eyes.

“At 5, it’s not so easy to close your eyes and walk,” Vollmer said. “So I had them look toward the wall.” They all had to be brave.

For more on Parents.com about the Sandy Hook Tragedy, visit the following:

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Newtown Tragedy Reveals Parents’ Disagreements on Gun Control

Monday, December 17th, 2012

After the Newtown, Connecticut mass shooting, virtually every American has weighed in with their opinions about gun control and whether access to guns should be restricted or protected. Parents, as NBC news reports, are divided on the issue, perhaps surprisingly so:

“Some parents turned their shock and grief into arguments for stricter gun laws, but others say it’s time to think seriously about protecting Second Amendment rights, and maybe even arm teachers so that adults can defend students against attacks like this.

“I do feel that those kids would have been better protected, more lives would have been saved, if someone had had some type of weapon at the school,” says Jillian Mae Hagle, of Tahlequah, Okla., the mother of a 1-year-old.

Other parents say the school shooting is a wake-up call for stricter gun control.

Bruce Ditman, father of Mila, 7, and Sam, 3, lives about half hour from Newtown.

“I like guns,” he says. “We have Nerf swords and guns in my house and gun control has never been something I’ve been hung up on.” Until Friday, when he watched children the same age as his, and parents just like him, suffer unspeakable pain and loss. Now he says enough is enough.

“We, as a country, have lost our privileges and proven ourselves undeserving of the type of freedom and access to weaponry we think we deserve,” he explains.

For some parents, Friday’s tragedy awakened memories of their own loss. Elaine Rondeau of Marietta, Ga., said she sobbed and sobbed when she heard the news – just like she does every time she learns of another mass shooting.

She and her husband Gordon lost their 29-year-old daughter Renee on Halloween night in 1994, when she was held at gunpoint, robbed, and then strangled in her Chicago apartment.

“Because of this powerful weapon, this gun in their hands,” Elaine Rondeau says, “these criminals were able to hold our daughter captive, and kill her. If they hadn’t had the gun, they never would have been able to get in in the first place.”

Rondeau said the Connecticut tragedy makes her frustrated that, in her opinion, there’s been no real progress on gun control since her daughter’s death 18 years ago.

In fact, Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.  Under Connecticut law, people under 21 are prohibited from purchasing or carrying handguns. Adam Lanza was 20. There are conflicting reports about how many weapons Lanza used during the shooting and how he got them. At one point, law enforcement officials told NBC News that Lanza had four handguns while he stalked the halls of Sandy Hook, but that could not be confirmed. It appears he carried at least two 9mm handguns, in addition to a rifle, which was the primary weapon.”

For more about the Sandy Hook tragedy, visit the following on Parents.com:

Image: Gun with safety switch, via Shutterstock

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President Obama Offers Comfort, Pledges Action at Newtown Vigil

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Speaking at an interfaith vigil in the grief-stricken town of Newtown, Connecticut in the wake of last week’s shooting that left 20 children and 6 adults dead, President Barack Obama offered words of prayer, comfort, and renewed dedication to stem the tide of violence against children in America. As the president spoke, and particularly when he mentioned victims’ names, the sounds of sobbing could be heard from the assembled crowd.

Following is the full text of the President’s speech, which was aired on national television.

“Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests, scripture tells us, “Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day.

“For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.”

We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.

Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.

I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We’ve pulled our children tight.

And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone.

As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch. They did not hesitate.

Dawn Hocksprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Russeau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy, they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances, with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.

We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms and kept steady through it all and reassured their students by saying, “Wait for the good guys, they are coming. Show me your smile.”

And we know that good guys came, the first responders who raced to the scene helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and their own trauma, because they had a job to do and others needed them more.

And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do, one child even trying to encourage a grownup by saying, “I know karate, so it’s OK; I’ll lead the way out.”

As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered, and with time and God’s grace, that love will see you through.

But we as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. You know, someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.

With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice, and every parent knows there’s nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet we also know that with that child’s very first step and each step after that, they are separating from us, that we won’t — that we can’t always be there for them.

They will suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments, and we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. And we know we can’t do this by ourselves.

It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.

And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.

This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?

Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?

Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change. Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.

And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose — much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.

We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.

If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I’ll 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?

You know, all the world’s religions, so many of them represented here today, start with a simple question.

Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?

We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace, that is true.

The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves and binds us to something larger, we know that’s what matters.

We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

That’s what we can be sure of, and that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle, Allison, God has called them all home.

For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory. May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort, and may He bless and watch over this community and the United States of America.”

For more on the Sandy Hook tragedy, visit the following on Parents.com:

Image: President Barack Obama, via spirit of america / Shutterstock.com

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