I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the tragedy that struck Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. As a mother and grandmother, I am heartbroken by the loss of so many innocent children, and I mourn deeply for the victims' loved ones. As a professional in the education community, I am struck by the humanity, professional skill, and courage of the Sandy Hook staff.
Upon hearing sounds of a threatening commotion, teachers throughout the school sprang to action to protect the lives of their students. Six members of the Sandy Hook staff, including the principal, the school psychologist, and teachers, lost their own lives in the process.
School-based tragedies such as this illustrate a dimension of the work educators may be expected to perform that is rarely discussed. The staff at Sandy Hook were professionally trained and had activated various procedures to protect the safety of the children – procedures that saved the lives of many but were not enough to save everyone.
This incident has captivated the nation's attention for a week now. There have been heartfelt speeches made by national and community leaders calling for change. There have been moving position statements and letters supported by many national organizations, including AACTE, outlining preventative steps moving forward. However, as a respected news reporter recently said, the world will eventually keep spinning on to a different topic. Yet, it will be a very long time before the world feels normal in Newtown, or in Littleton, Colorado; Blacksburg, Virginia; or the numerous other communities that have experienced similar tragedies.
Gun violence is becoming far too common of a headline in our country, not only in our schools but in our homes and communities. Children lose their lives to gun fire every day. We need to ask the tough questions about how to keep children safe and come together around the right answers.
We should press our state and federal policy makers to work with Vice President Biden as he responds to President Obama's directive to craft a comprehensive policy package intended to prevent tragedies such as Newtown's in the future. Expanding access to services for people with mental health challenges; addressing the proliferation of violence in the media, in video games, and online; and limiting multiple-round assault weapons all need to be part of the initiative.
My wish for all of us in the new year is that we can heal from this tragedy and learn from it so that such an event never occurs again. We all have an important role in making this wish come true. I know you join me in sending our condolences, prayers, and love to our fellow citizens and colleagues in Newtown and, like me, are dedicated to helping craft the path forward.
- Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D.