A boy waits to enter the funeral home where the family of six-year-old Jack Pinto, a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, was holding his funeral service, in Newtown, Connecticut. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Cautious educators and police locked down schools at the
first hint of trouble as nervous parents sent their kids back
to school for the first time since the massacre at Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Educators fearful of "copycats" or troublemakers who might
phone in empty threats grappled with how to respond and
whether to discuss Friday's shootings with children.
Safety was balanced against concerns over frightening
children unnecessarily. Politicians debated whether to
fortify schools with armed guards.
At least three school districts near Newtown went into
lockdown on Monday after a citizen reported a "suspicious
person" at a train station near an elementary school in
Ridgefield, about 30km from Newtown, where a gunman shot dead
20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary.
"We had a report of a suspicious person at the Branchville
train station, which is near the Branchville Elementary
School. What's suspicious to one person may not be suspicious
to another," said Lieutenant Jeff Kreitz of the Ridgefield
Asked whether neighbouring school districts needed to go into
lockdown, Kreitz said "it was just a precaution because of
the situation at Newtown."
The lockdown was lifted about two hours later, police said.
In Redding, about 16km from Newtown, schools went into
lockdown as a precautionary measure, police said.
The Katonah-Lewisboro School District in New York state, just
over the state border from Ridgefield, sent parents an
automated phone message notifying them district schools had
been locked down because of an issue in a neighboring school
district. It did not elaborate.
The Newtown massacre reverberated elsewhere in the country.
"We will not bring up the tragic events in lower grade
classrooms," Cindy Wulbert, principal of Nettelhorst School
in Chicago, said in a note to parents. "We will handle
questions by addressing how they are safe at school and will
ask younger children to talk with their parents."
In Kernersville, North Carolina, first-grade teacher Molli
Falgout struggled with how to address the tragedy with her
young students on Monday - and wondered if she should mention
it at all.
"And if I do, what am I going to say about it? I'm just
praying about it, because I don't know," Falgout said.
"Just letting them know that school is safe" is an important
message, said, Falgout, whose pupils were the same age - 6 or
7 - as those gunned down in Newtown.
Falgout, 33, said she might think twice about opening the
blinds all the way on her classroom's large windows as she
normally does, worried that doing so would allow strangers to
peer inside. "I'll kind of be on my toes more," she said.
Even schools on military bases were concerned about safety.
"Today, each school principal is reviewing, with the school
staff, our established routine security measures and the
procedures to be followed in the event of a school crisis,"
said Emily Marsh, superintendent for schools at the U.S. Army
base Fort Bragg and U.S. Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune in
"Counselors, school psychologists, and our school social
worker are available to assist teachers, students, and
administrators," Marsh said in a note to parents.
In Florida, a politician in Fort Lauderdale is proposing
police officers be posted at all elementary schools in the
Fort Lauderdale already provides school resource officers at
its three high schools and five middle schools. The proposal
would re-assign some city police detectives and narcotics
officers to provide coverage at elementary schools and
"We must find the necessary funding from the city and grants
to provide protection at every elementary school. Public
Safety has always been a primary concern for our city's
residents," said Chuck Black, a city commission candidate.