In a unanimous vote, a taskforce of local leaders in Newtown, Conn. decided on Friday to knock down Sandy Hook Elementary School and build a new school in its place.
The decision came after months in which the 28-person task force considered 40 different sites on which to build a school, settling on the original site both for its convenient location and for the symbolic triumph over tragedy it provides. The new school will cost between $42 million and $47 million to construct, a cost that the state and federal governments are expected to pick up.
Though everyone who testified in Friday’s meeting spoke in favor of the final recommendations, some parents expressed discomfort at the idea of building a new school where the old one once stood.
“To me, that is always going to be a site where 26 people were murdered,”one panel member, Laura Roche, told The New York Times.
But Roche voted on Friday in favor of building on the original site as the best option available to the taskforce.
The recommendation would preclude the possibility of converting the old elementary school into a memorial site, as in several previous instances. At Columbine High School, where two teenagers gunned down 12 students in 1999 and injured 24 others, the library – where most of the victims had been slaughtered – was converted into an atrium. At Virginia Tech, the classroom building where a gunman killed 32 people in 2007 was converted into a peace studies and violence prevention center.
The taskforce’s recommendation will now go to the local school board and will need to earn the support of local residents, who will vote on the proposal in a referendum.
In back door meetings that concluded late last night, Connecticut lawmakers struck a long-awaited deal on gun legislation that they plan to unveil to the legislature today.
The legislation, which was first proposed following the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, will likely contain new gun restrictions as well as changes to the state’s mental healthcare system and additions to its school security apparatus. Many expect that the bill will broaden the state’s ban on assault-style weapons and ban the sale of ammunition magazines containing more than 10 bullets. Such laws would make Connecticut’s gun control laws some of the tightest in the nation.
The bill — whose provisions are being kept secret — will be viewed by both chambers of the legislature today before top Democratic and Republican lawmakers meet one final time. They will likely announce what they will debate and vote on later in the week.
The legislature is expected to vote on the final bill on Wednesday.
Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and Chris Murphy offered harsh words to the NRA in a Monday letter to the pro-gun organization’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre.
The letter, in which the senators requested the NRA cease automated calls pushing the NRA’s pro-gun policies to Newtown, Conn., residents, called the organization’s behavior “inappropriate” and its agenda “extreme.”
“With the robocalls, the NRA has stooped to a new low in the debate over how to best protect our kids and our communities,” the senators wrote. “We call on you to immediately stop calling the families and friends of the victims in Newtown.”
The NRA did not respond to requests for information on the specific language included in the robocalls or whether the organization plans to continue the calls. The organization has vowed to oppose any tightening of firearm regulations. On Sunday, however, Politico reported that the organization was in private talks with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a staunch advocate of the Second Amendment, to expand background checks on gun purchases.
Nearly 100 days after the school shooting that claimed the lives of 20 first-grade students and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the national push for increased gun control continues to move slowly. Just under two weeks ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved four pieces of legislation written in the wake of the massacre. The most controversial provisions, such as an assault weapons ban, however, are widely considered unlikely to pass the full Senate.
Read the full text of the letter below:
March 25, 2013
Mr. Wayne LaPierre
Executive Vice President
National Rifle Association of America
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
Dear Mr. LaPierre:
We write to you today on behalf of our constituents in Newtown, Connecticut who are outraged by your inappropriate automated phone calls pushing the National Rifle Association’s extreme agenda being received by members of the Newtown community. With these robocalls, the NRA has stooped to a new low in the debate over how to best protect our kids and our communities. We call on you to immediately stop calling the families and friends of the victims in Newtown.
Like all Americans, we were horrified by the shooting on December 14th at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We were with the parents that day and the days that followed and can confidently tell you that the parents of the victims, and the community as a whole, are still struggling to comprehend the horror of that day. Your robocalls pushing our constituents to contact their members of Congress to urge opposition to common sense gun safety legislation are incredibly insensitive.
In a community that’s still very much in crisis, to be making these calls opens a wound that these families are still trying hard to heal. Put yourself in the shoes of a victim’s family member who gets a call at dinnertime asking them to support more assault weapons in our schools and on our streets.
Unfortunately, this latest act is just another example in a long line of offensive steps your organization has taken in the wake of this tragic shooting. Your press conference one week after the tragedy articulated your surreal vision that the only way to solve the epidemic of gun violence in America is through the use of more guns. One month later you released “NRA: Practice Range,” an Apple app that allows individuals to shoot targets in a variety of settings and with a number of different weapons, including handguns, an AK-47 and an M-16. More recently, one of the NRA’s Wisconsin lobbyists remarked that your extreme agenda may be delayed by the so-called “Connecticut effect.”
Robocalling members of the Newtown community to promote your agenda less than 100 days after the horrific shooting is absolutely beyond the pale. Again, we call on you to show some basic decency and cease and desist these calls.
Christopher S. Murphy Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator United States Senator
The Connecticut General Assembly unanimously passed a bill today creating a fund for first responders, teachers and others who suffered psychological trauma from the Sandy Hook shooting.
Backed by private donations, the new fund will supplement an existing workers compensation fund that pays for lost wages resulting from a workplace physical injury, but does not currently compensate people for purely mental trauma.
“While 82 days have passed, the anguish of that day is still raw for many,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy in a press release, commending the Legislature on its bipartisan effort. “In the depth of that anguish, we in government have undertaken a critically important debate, one where complete consensus will be difficult if not impossible. But that should not stop us from doing the good and decent things that honor those who serve our communities, especially those who have done so admirably in our darkest hour.”
At least two Newtown police officers have been unable to work since the Dec. 14 shooting, when they were some of the first to enter the building and confront the bodies of the slain young children and teachers. Many others have worked on and off since December.
In all, some 150 to 200 individuals stand to benefit from the newly created fund.
Facebook has agreed to remove several so-called “tribute pages” for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting over concerns that the pages were being used to exploit the tragedy.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, Sen. Chris Murphy and Rep. Elizabeth Esty wrote a joint letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg yesterday morning asking that the pages be immediately taken down, after they said Facebook had ignored the requests of individual Newtown families to do the same. They expressed concern that some of the pages, purportedly designed to mourn the lives lost on Dec. 14, were being used to harass victims’ family members and to commit financial fraud through soliciting charitable donations.
Blumenthal announced in a press release that Facebook responded later that day, saying it would begin removing the offending pages immediately.
Just over one month after Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Victoria Soto died shielding her students in the second-deadliest school shooting in American history, the town council of Stratford, Conn. voted to name a primary school after her.
The school, Honeyspot House, is currently in the early phases of a plan to move the school to a new building, which is expected to open in 2014. Honeyspot House serves students in kindergarten through first grade and is part of the larger Stratford Academy, a magnet school open free of charge to all children living in Stratford. Children gain admission to the school through an application completed by parents or guardians.
Soto, 27, reportedly died attempting to protect her first-grade students from gunman Adam Lanza during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December. Her decision to put several students in a closet in her classroom is credited with saving their lives. Twenty students and six faculty members, including Soto, were killed during the attack.
“This tragedy has affected so many people,” Stratford Mayor John Harkins told NBC Connecticut. “But I think the one thing great about the Stratford community is the outpouring of support and people wanting to recognize her and what she did.”
According to NBC News, Soto grew up in Newtown and attended New Stratford High School, graduating in 2003 before attending Eastern Connecticut State University. Soto’s aunt also reportedly taught in the old Honeyspot House building.