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Newtown Superintendent Speaks to Congress on 'New Normal'

After speaking at a gun violence prevention panel in Washington, Superintendent Janet Robinson says she'll push for more security at Newtown schools.

NEWTOWN, CT -- It was an emotional testimony. 

Newtown Superintendent Janet Robinson told a congressional committee Tuesday she was "here to give a face" to the children, families and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Speaking alongside a panel that included Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter and the mother of slain Gabrielle Giffords staffer Gabe Zimmerman, Robinson described the morning of December 14, 2012, when 20 children and six educators lost their lives, in intense detail.

"Sandy Hook Elementary School seemed like the safest place on Earth," she said. "That morning was like every morning." Addressing the visibly shaken audience, her voice remained steady as she described the heroic actions of the educators who lost their lives.

"None of these brave women were trained in combat," said Robinson. "They were elementary school educators dedicated to educating their young children. So their first response when confronted by this terror was to protect their children ... This loving little elementary school was helpless in the face of this assault."

Now Robinson and other Newtown school officials must look forward to an uncertain future in 2013.

"We as a community are struggling to pick up the pieces and determine what this new normal looks like," she said. Parents have requested reassurances that security won't wane as the months pass. Robinson said she's not sure what will become of the funds donated from around the world.

"What we need right now is to have things that make us feel safe," she said. "One of the things that would be immediately helpful would be SROs in the elementary schools."

With budget season at hand, school officials are working on securing grants to provide security, but she says grant money is limited. The district hopes to receive funding through a federal School Emergency Response to Violence grant.

"Hopefully we'll get some of those services, but they're not forever," she told Patch. "There's a timeline on them. I don't know what that timeline is ... But we need time to heal."

Robinson said she's sure legislators share her concerns.

"I felt they were truly interested when they heard the stories of the mother of the son that was killed, and heard my stories of Sandy Hook," she said. "They were moved and touched. They said, 'What can we do to help with healing, and what can we do to help our culture?'"

Just hours before Robinson's testimony, President Barack Obama introduced proposals to introduce universal background checks and renew bans on assault rifles. Robinson said an assault rifle ban "would be great," and hopes stronger checks and mental health care will prevent people from "slipping through the cracks."

"Think there's no question as a country we do not invest enough in providing training and early intervention in terms of mental health issues," she told Patch. "I really would like to see more of that. Look at what we do after the fact -- we put people in prison. Maybe if we had early interventions and training, we could have a more effective way of doing this in a healthier fashion."

Robinson's participation in the panel Wednesday left a mark on the audience as well.

"That deeply wounded community is fortunate to have a person of your strength and moral character," U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, co-chair of the committee, told her.

Ell January 20, 2013 at 10:33 PM
This is for Petra, Great job reporting the numbers on violent crime rate going down. Of course you fail to mention in the states and cities with the strictest gun laws that is where violent crime has GONE DOWN THE MOST. Example: New York City: 1992: 9,977 homicides. New York City 2012: 400 homicides(that is the lowest figure in the history of New York City since records of this sort were kept!! Oh, in 1994 is when strict gun laws began to be enacted. Since gun those strict gun laws were enacted homicides went from 9,977 to 400. Here is another hard fact: In the U.S last year 24,000 gun related deaths. In Japan, England, and Australia(more people combined than the U.S. population) under 100 guns deaths-combined!! those country have strict gun laws. The facts speak for themselves.
Mary January 20, 2013 at 11:41 PM
I am not from Sandy Hook, but love those kids with all my heart, I choose love also and a commitment to make my country a better place.
Tom January 21, 2013 at 12:58 AM
That's 28 dead. Could anything have been done to prevent whatever caused him to "flip out?" If a child must be pulled out of public school, and home schooled, wouldn't it be wise to require at least regular mental health exams, and possible social worker inspections to ensure the child/young adult is in a healthy environment?
Tom Bittman January 21, 2013 at 01:32 AM
We have a lot of trauma to deal with in Newtown over a lot of years. Kids that escaped, parents that are dealing with death and traumatized kids, teachers that are completely wrung out, first responders who dealt with the worst of the worst. We have a lot of healing to do in town. $8M sounds like a lot, but it really isn't.
Dart January 21, 2013 at 01:45 AM
The mother made the choice to take him out of the school. If a parent makes the choice to take a child out of the school system (in CT this can be done at age 16), the school is no longer responsible. Most likely, since it was the mother's decision to remove him from the school, she would not have welcomed any inspections from any agency. It is puzzling why people keep trying to blame the school, he had been out of the school (by the choice of the mother) for at least 4 years.
Old Saybrook Mel January 21, 2013 at 01:56 AM
Petra: Nice selective use of FBI data. But let's tell the WHOLE story, not just the assault rifle subset: http://www.nij.gov/nij/topics/crime/gun-violence/welcome.htm 12,000 gun murders, less than 3,000 knife murders, less than 700 blunt object murders. By your logic, we should ban ALL handguns - which makes sense to me, but not many others.
karlehm January 21, 2013 at 02:19 AM
Where did you get the information that $8,000,000 has been donated?
Richard Hooker January 21, 2013 at 02:27 AM
That THING that you call a name who slaughtered innocent children and people was not a victim. It was an animal. That thing does not even go into the same category as a human being. I absolutely refuse to acknowledge that animal as a victim. Only an ANIMAL would do such a horrific act of anger and fury without afterthought.
Sal January 21, 2013 at 02:39 AM
We do NOT need more controls on guns___instead we need a 300% sales tax on all guns, all ammunition, all reloading equipment and related supplies. Raising cigarette sales taxes reduced smoking from over 50% of our population down to around 25%. Higher guns costs created by a 300% sales tax like on cigarettes would go a long way towards lowering gun sales and keeping them out of the hands of criminals also. The gun sales tax should be dedicated to paying for bulletproof doors on all clasroom doors___to turn classrooms into Safe Rooms. NYS has a $7.00 tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes and they need the same $7.00 sales tax on a box of 20 bullets.
Diana January 21, 2013 at 03:25 AM
I agree. Armed guards at every school is not something I would want in our society. I don't believe school shootings are going to be the "new normal", and a trend that warrants that type of a response. That does not mean that I do not value the lives of our children. I just think that citizens, right now, are still reeling from an unconscionable act and looking for something to ease their anxieties and anguish.
Carol January 21, 2013 at 05:36 AM
You're right, Sonja. She doesn't count as this tragedy was about 80% her own fault.
Sonja (real name, real spelling) January 21, 2013 at 05:50 AM
Go Vegan, although murder and suicide are distinguishable on the basis of who has control over the fate of another human being, I sympathize with your viewpoint. I can understand people not wanting to put the shooter on the same plane as victims, who were helpless, but you have a point as well. Actually, my dictionary does distinguish a victim from a perpetrator, and states that victims aren't agents, but this is not a debate about words. When a shooting happened at a university near me, one leading psychologist said that the best way we know to prevent these tragedies is to be vigilant about suicide. Suicide is better understood, and relatively more predictable -- much more, in fact. We cannot tell very well who might be likely to kill others, but we have a much better idea of who is likely to kill himself, and if we intervene in time, we do have hope of preventing all the deaths. (BTW, I don't eat meat, either.)
George S January 21, 2013 at 06:15 AM
Regarding the security guard issue, it seems improbable that a security guard would have made a difference at the elementary school. Yes, lot's of places such as malls, where one works, etc., have security guards. The guards where I work are typical. Good people, good workers - but they don't have either the training or weaponry to reliably deal with assault-weapon levels of lethality. You would have needed an on-premise professional SWAT team to reliably defend against Adam Lanza.
Tom Bittman January 21, 2013 at 07:51 AM
I'm not anti-gun. But here's a question. How many crimes have been thwarted using AR-15s? How many criminals were shot by AR-15s? In 2012? Ever? I know how many first graders and teachers and firemen were shot by AR-15s in December alone. You can't ignore the fact that the AR-15 isn't a defensive weapon - it's an offensive weapon, and lots of innocent people are dying. I hope we all look for reasonable answers to make it less likely in the future.
Lois Imbriano Barber January 21, 2013 at 12:17 PM
Lieberman had the deciding vote for giving us a truly Affordable Health Care Bill. Instead, all we got was a watered-down version that doesn't help us small business owners get affordable heath care. There are now thousands of folks who need mental heath care that cannot afford it. Lieberman is blaming violent movies and video games, rather than affordable health care. I agree with you - he was the last person they should have picked.
yoda January 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM
Tom, If a child is a safety issue the school has to out place him!! It cost the school money, so they will fight it any way they can!!!
Lois Imbriano Barber January 21, 2013 at 12:20 PM
No mother takes a child who is doing well out of school to home school him, unless there are issues. Nancy L. NEVER should have had assault weapons or any type of gun in her house. She was negligent and her carelessness caused this. If, as a single mom, she felt unsafe, she should have alarmed her house and bought a German shepherd.
Lois Imbriano Barber January 21, 2013 at 12:25 PM
We do, for a fact, that Adam had access to the guns. What more proof do you need? (Only a licensed locksmith could pick a gun safe. If she had the type where a thumbprint is required to open the safe, as far as I know, her hands were intact.) I'm sure she tried her best to raise this troubled boy, but she does not deserve to be counted with the 26 innocent victims. It was her choice to keep guns in the same home as a boy so troubled, she had to take him out of high school. He was 20, and hadn't been in school for 4 years.
Dart January 21, 2013 at 01:03 PM
This particular kid was not a safety issue. My daughter remembers him from the high school, she is one year younger. The school did not outplace him, it was the mother's choice to remove him from the school system. Once that happened, it was the mother's responsibility to ensure a healthy environment.
Lois Imbriano Barber January 21, 2013 at 01:17 PM
Long Time Resident - Are you kidding with "Adam Lanza was not a safety issue"?
Tired of idiots January 21, 2013 at 02:38 PM
This is smart. Also, gun owners should have to carry a $100,000,000 personal liability policy.
Joni Dalgar January 21, 2013 at 03:33 PM
I am Sandy Hook and I choose love. Joni Dalgar, Tampa Bay Florida
Fernmin Gonzales January 21, 2013 at 03:53 PM
don't give animals a bad name, an animal is more civilized than man
Fernmin Gonzales January 21, 2013 at 03:58 PM
schools need armed guards, not unarmed guards to take out any criminal out don't exaggerate about using swat for for one person 120 lbs who could barely carry those weapons
Dart January 21, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Ms. Barber, no I am not kidding you with my about him not being a safety issue. To clarify, WHILE HE WAS ENROLLED AT THE HIGH SCHOOL, there was no indication that there were any safety problems. None reported anyway. The mother removed him from the school a good 4 years ago. I am only trying to make the point that there wasn't anything the school could have done once the mother made the choice to take him out of the school. I am puzzled why people are still blaming the school, or Janet Robinson for what happened.
Fernmin Gonzales January 21, 2013 at 09:01 PM
but it's the assault weapon that's been ban so the statistics are fair less then 4% murders with automatic assault weapons,
Fernmin Gonzales January 21, 2013 at 09:04 PM
i guess love is in the air now
Lois Imbriano Barber January 21, 2013 at 09:51 PM
No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. That being said, the schools are not responsible but his mother is because she knew how troubled he was and still had guns in the house. It is apparent we need a lot more gun safety lessons on how to lock guns up, the dangers of having guns accessible to people with mental health issues (Adam had a lot more going on than Aspergers, These children are known by the nickname "little Professeurs, and for the most part are gentle souls), and the only way to be sure your unbalanced relative doesn't hurt you or others with your guns is to not own them. Just this weekend there were 3 different accidental shootings at guns shows because folks didn't know their guns were loaded.
Human calculator January 21, 2013 at 11:23 PM
$8,000,000 figure is from the Newtown Bee
Douglas Brennan January 25, 2013 at 12:08 PM
When we focus on being helpful rather than being right the healing will begin and the right decisions will be made.

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