Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 21 December 2012 00:00
In the aftermath of the unthinkable, local students, teachers and administrators returned to school on Monday, Dec. 17 following the Connecticut school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took the lives of 20 children and six adults the previous Friday.
David Flatley, superintendent of Carle Place Schools, noted how the situation could’ve been worse had it not been for the response of those who died trying protect their young students.
“There are probably lots of people who were saved up in Connecticut because they planned well, but unfortunately a lot of people were in harm’s way.
“The fact that lots of people kept their head, acted professionally and according to their safety plans, I think that part hasn’t been focused on yet but it’s something I had been thinking about all weekend. As tragic as it was, it could’ve been a whole lot worse,” Flatley said, noting that the district had been conducting lockdown drills over the past few weeks.
“This is exactly the type of situation that we try to plan for. We’ve ratcheted up our security profile, too, but frankly, we’re pretty much doing that all the time,” Flatley explained, though he declined to provide specifics.
The superintendent noted that depending on children’s ages, parents should be mindful of how they address the situation with their kids.
“We need to have conversations with our kids in developmentally appropriate ways. It’s important to ask them what they’re feeling, what they know, what they might be confused about and let the kids lead the way in the conversation as a way to kind of protect them from details they don’t need to know. We need to address the questions they have and not impose our own fears and concerns on them,” Flatley explained.
Jen Argenzio, a parent of a 13-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter in the Carle Place School District, said she spent the weekend grieving for those who lost their lives so tragically.
“It’s so beyond words. I can’t bring myself away from it. I can’t shut off the TV even though I probably should. All these parents are so admirable,” Argenzio said, adding that she told her children, “There is so much bad in the world but there is also so much good.”
Argenzio said her son has “very manageable” Tourette’s Syndrome and the onus falls on parents for recognizing certain special needs for children early on.
The shooter, Adam Lanza, 20, was described as extremely bright but fidgety and socially awkward. Reports have also said that Lanza may have been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder that falls under the Autism spectrum.
“I think to myself, ‘How did [Lanza’s mother] not see these signs?’ You have to know if your kid is a little ‘off,’” Argenzio said, noting that the Newtown shooting will undoubtedly shine the national spotlight not only on gun control but mental illnesses as well.
“I know it’s a gun control issue, but mental illness really has a lot to do with it and getting them the right help and therapy. It makes a big difference. People will always be able to get guns; it’s the foundation that people are missing,” Argenzio explained.
Interim Superintendent at Westbury Schools Mary Lagnado said the tragic events in Connecticut might have sparked an anonymous online threat on the Westbury Middle School. As of press time (Monday, Dec. 17), the middle school had suspended all after-school and evening activities.
“We have been in close contact with the board of education trustees and the middle school principal and we are taking every precaution including working with the local authorities to locate and apprehend the person or persons who made this threat,” Lagnado said.
Westbury School Board Vice President Dr. Pless Dickerson called children “our most precious commodity” and believes safety preparations should be among the highest priorities in local schools.
“I think Westbury has gone the extra length to provide that type of everyday security and safety for our students. We just have to be vigilant and keep our guard up at all times,” Dickerson said.