Sunday, January 13, 2013

Should Sandy Hook School reopen to survivors?

I received an email from the parent of a Sandy Hook student who survived and she has a very important question for Columbine survivors about whether kids should go to a new school or return to Sandy Hook. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below as I think it will be really helpful for their community.

"Our community is beginning to discuss what should be done with the school and I'm trying to make an informed plea. My child can't wait to go back to Sandy Hook School. We've discussed the possibility and her feelings surrounding it and she just wants to go back so desperately. I'm writing to you to see if I can get some insight into the feelings of those students who returned to Columbine and whether or not they found any peace and healing.  I'd like to hear the opinions of some of those who have lived through this type of experience so that I can make a plea to the school board as the decision is being made as to the future of SHS. I'm hoping that you can give me some feedback or point me in a direction where I can get the information in the most efficient way. I appreciate any time you can give me."

Thank you everyone!


  1. First and foremost, I am so, so, unbelievably sorry about what you, your daughter, and everyone has had to go through and will have to go through as you all come out on the other end of this tragedy. Every detail I see or read makes my heart ache for you.

    I'll share a little about my experience in hopes that it helps. From my perspective, I would say that it's really important for the kids (and parents) to return to the school, but everyone is different. Everyone's grieving process will be very different and their needs are going to be different too. After the shooting at Columbine, we attended our rival high school in the afternoons (I think from about noon - 5pm or something like that) until the school year was over in May, and we returned to Columbine in the fall of '99. There was a big event, and lots of school spirit, and tons of people from the community came out to show support. And we paid tribute to the victims. Personally, it was all very therapeutic, I think. Even just thinking back on it makes me tear up, it was pretty special and emotional. I think the most important thing was being together and knowing we weren't going through it alone.

    I was a senior that next year, and got to spend the year making memories beyond the horrific day of the shooting. There were good days and bad days. Personally, I was completely numb until about 6 months after the actual shooting, and that's when I went through my grieving/recovery process. But I have really amazing memories with friends and teachers who had good and bad days with us. I always felt so bad for the seniors the year of the shooting, because school essentially ended, (except for the two weeks at our rival high school), and then they headed off into the world or to college and didn't get to come back for a year and have the counseling options, or support that our class had. My brother and sister were in 9th grade during the shooting, so they had 3 years at Columbine afterward, and that was just too long. While they got to make new memories, they also had to go through 3 years of reminders and anniversaries.

    As great as going back to Columbine was for me, there were kids that couldn't come back and transferred schools. Which I understand as well. So, everyone's needs will be different.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.


  2. Reopen and give the community something to come together with and get stronger by. I remember how strong the columbine community became after something like this happened to us.

  3. There are certainly going to be some very mixed emotions surrounding a subject like this. I'd suggest doing something as was done at Columbine (the library turned into an atrium). And, from there, reopen with appropriate memorial(s).

  4. Thanks, Kristi, for trying to help those in Newtown, CT do what's determined to be best for their community. I agree totally with you that everyone will have their own thoughts on this. As a parent in a "Columbine" family, I offer what some might consider to be a little different perspective. My thoughts are they could do something as was done at Columbine where the library was turned into an atrium. Then reopen with the appropriate memorials there and elsewhere, if so desired. Our thoughts and prayers are with the school, the community, the state, and everyone else affected by the "ripple effects" caused by this tragedy.

  5. Return to the school, especially if your daughter wants to. Although it's commonplace to hear that everyone handles tragedy differently, all of these kids did have a similar experience. Other than family, I would say my friends were the most instrumental in helping me to cope and move forward. In addition, I don't think a new school would have been as well equipped to handle or relate to what we were going through. Especially when you consider the fact that the teachers went through the tragedy, and specialized counselors were in our school the following year. If I had to make the decision all over, I would still return to Columbine. Hopefully this is helpful, and my thoughts are with you as your family and the community heals.

  6. One other observation. As you, and everyone else who went through the tragedy at CHS know all too well, the journey will be long, and there will be many bumps in the road for this community, in particular. Reaching out, as they've done here, is something to be encouraged, if possible. If the time every becomes "appropriate" for them to reach out more (and that's a decision only they can make), "We are ALL Columbine" can take on a much deeper meaning for everyone.

  7. I did not have children in Columbine, but I knew both teachers and students who were involved. I believe that the decision to go back to Columbine, after agreed upon changes were made, was the right one, in order to keep the community as a community.

    As others have said, everyone will react a bit differently.

    Whatever decision is made, I wish the best for the community.

  8. There are one or two major differences between
    Sandy Hook Elem. and Columbine that will need to be taken into consideration. The first being the age difference in the student body, Columbine students having been between 14 and 18 years old and the Sandy Hook students being between 5 and 9 years of age. Coping skills and grieving processes are very different at these ages.
    Second, because the school has been moved to a
    new location with special attention placed on creating familiar settings, with the same staff and teachers, maintaining structure and schedules, and the students coming back together will go a long way in reestablishing a sense of routine and structure for the children in the new Sandy Hook location. Counseling availability will be present in either location. The sense of School Spirit in Columbine was amazing however the younger students at Sandy Hook may not yet have fully developed into that awareness. The new school
    location maybe a better choice for this situation and these younger students. We hold all the people of Newtown in our hearts. We all know their journey will be a long and winding road. We hope they will continue to reach out when they can and we will understand when they cannot. The concerns and choices facing this
    community are many and while seeking advice and opinions of others is important the ultimate decision will have to come from within.

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