Experts from law enforcement to victims' families met at a school safety summit in Lexington, Massachusetts, on Wednesday to discuss the impact of school shooting tragedies and what more can be done to better school safety and security.
On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 first graders and six educators were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Michele Gay’s daughter, Josephine, was one of the victims. She co-founded Safe and Sound Schools to try to prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook.
“For victim’s families, it feels like there’s nothing, no good that can come if we’re not learning from our loss and our tragedy experiences and the thing is each one of these crises is different," Gay said.
But there have been many more school shootings in the U.S. since 2012. Dozens of educators, counselors and first responders gathered at Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High school to talk about school safety from Sandy Hook to Uvalde, Texas. Massachusetts State Police Col. Chris Mason said quick engagement with a school shooter has become the standard.
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"The need to act decisively, quickly, in one, two-person teams that arrive and take immediate and quick action. Certainly a lesson that was reinforced when we look back at Uvalde.”
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In the Uvalde shootings, officers failed to engage the gunman for more than an hour. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed. At Sandy Hook police responded quickly and went in immediately.
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“That unfortunately was not the experience in Uvalde and as you see that adds to the pain and the trauma and that recovery for them," Gay said.
Experts say spotting people struggling before they act out is key to preventing attacks like these especially post-pandemic.
Margie Daniels heads MA Partnerships for Youth.
“We have, I believe, more and more students who haven’t been in school who really are very isolated individuals and don’t necessarily have the supports that they need in terms of their mental and behavioral health," she explained.
Another important part of this is ongoing communication between first responders and school staff long before anything happens.
As Daniels put it, if they are exchanging business cards at the scene, it's not going to go well.