Updated at 3:05 p.m. Dec. 14, 2012
Twenty-seven people, including 20 children under 10, died in a school massacre Friday morning in Newtown, CT—the toll exceeding the 21 lives lost in the McDonald’s Massacre of 1984 in San Ysidro.
The gunman in Friday’s tragedy was killed, according to reports. The school’s principal also was reported slain.
Patch editors in Connecticut are updating the story with photos and video. Check the coverage at Newtown Patch.
The latest incident brought painful reminders of the March 5, 2001, shooting at Santana High School where troubled student Charles “Andy” Williams, then 15, opened fire on the campus, killing two students and injuring 13 others.
“We just don’t expect someone coming in our environment and shooting at children,” Patrick Shaw, the previous Santee School District Superintendent, said in reaction to a 2010 school shooting in Carlsbad “That’s the shocking aspect.”
Many Carlsbad-area parents also remember the October 2010 Kelly Elementary School shooting in which a gunman entered the school, fired rounds and shot two young girls in their arms. Nearby construction workers were able to stop the gunman before more harm was done. Carlsbad Unified School District increased police patrols at all area schools Friday.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said: ”This morning’s shooting in Connecticut is a terrible, senseless tragedy. Our grief is made all the deeper when we think of the innocence of the lives lost and the valiant efforts of teachers and school leaders to protect them. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and the entire school community.”
Ramona Unified schools Superintendent Robert Graeff told Patch that though Ramona has been “very blessed” to never experience a schoolwide tragedy like the Newtown shooting, precautions are still made by the district.
“We fully understand that we are also not immune to threats from off-campus or from on-campus,” Graeff said in an email. “Maintaining close relationships with our local sheriff and fire departments, ensuring that our emergency drills are current and practiced, and reminding staff to continually stay on guard for potential threats are the primary tools that we use to protect our students and staff.”
Graeff said that each school in Ramona Unified has detailed emergency plans for a “wide variety of potential threats.” Procedures for fires, earthquakes and even intruder alerts are practiced on a “regular basis,” the superintendent said.
“Administrators use these opportunities to remind staff and students of proper procedures for each of the various scenarios,” Graeff said. “Unfortunately, not every situation can ever be anticipated and every school is limited to the amount of safety features and staff we can include.”
Officials of the San Diego Unified School District, the second-largest school district in California with 132,000 students, wrote to parents and guardians.
“Today’s shooting transcends our ability to understand how anyone could commit such an act on innocent children, teachers and caretakers,” said Superintendent Bill Kowba. “All San Diego Unified schools have safety plans that cover all contingencies. We are continually reviewing those plans and training our staff to ensure the safety of our students.
“We also have the expertise of our own school police department who monitor the safety of our school campuses. Our school police and our school staff will have a heightened awareness of security issues during this time.”
Alfredo Aguirre, director of San Diego County Behavioral Health Services, said: “Incidents like this can generate a lot of fear and anxiety that can last a few days or weeks. That’s why it’s important for parents to be aware of their children’s response and be ready to talk openly about it, without providing too many details.
Parents should control the amount of information children have access to and answer their questions simply without dramatizing the incident, Aguirre said. “This helps to diminish fear and anxiety in children,” he said.
Other ideas for dealing with children’s fears are here.
The county operates the Access and Crisis Line seven days a week, 24 hours a day, where people can get help for issues such as depression, anxiety, anger, or other mental health challenges.
The number is 888-724-7240.
The Sandy Hook shooting also revived the issue of gun control.
State Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Fransisco/San Mateo who has been an advocate for stricter bans on assault rifles in California, sent condolences to the children and families of Newtown.
“In a year with so many appalling acts of gun violence, this is the most shocking of such tragedies,” Yee said in a prepared statement. “While we do not have all the details behind this senseless and unconscionable massacre, it is a sad and horrific reminder of what is possible when guns get into the wrong hands. We must limit access to weapons that can result in such catastrophe and mass murder.”
See more coverage on Newtown Patch:
- Patch Exclusive: 'It Wasn't Me' Man Named as Shooter Writes
- Report: Gunman's Mother Was Target and School's Kindergarten Teacher
- Reaction: Sandy Hook School Shooting
- Police Raid Sandy Hook Home Hours After Shooting
Do you have any relatives in Newtown or know any of the staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Please note in the comments or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patch editors Steven Bartholow, Deanne Goodman, Jennifer Vigil, Melissa Phy, Michelle Mowad and Jennifer Squires contributed to this report.