Wise Decision, Attorney General Jepson Drops $100 Million Lawsuit
At the Schools with Audrey Linden
Connecticut AG Blocks $100 Million Lawsuit Over Newtown Attack.
The AP (12/31) reports that Connecticut Attorney General George Jepson "says he sympathizes with families affected by the deadly Newtown school shooting but the state isn't liable for the harm inflicted." Responding to a request from attorney Irving Pinsky to "sue the state for $100 million on behalf of a 6-year-old survivor," Jepson said, "people affected 'deserve a thoughtful and deliberate examination' of the tragedy and appropriate public policy responses. But he says the claims commissioner's office isn't the appropriate venue." Pinsky "says his request is about school safety. He says his client sustained 'emotional and psychological trauma and injury' on Dec. 14 after a gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and six adults and then killed himself."
Reuters (1/1, Honan) also covers this story, explaining in its report that in Connecticut, lawsuits against the state must be pre-approved by the state claims commissioner. This piece quotes Jepsen saying in a statement, "Our hearts go out to this family, and to all the children and families affected by the Newtown shootings. They deserve a thoughtful and deliberate examination of the causes of this tragedy and of the appropriate public policy responses."
I just got this bulletin from NEA's (National Education Association) "Opening Bell" which I belong to. And, it is indeed good news. The parent of a surviving child was trying to sue the Connecticut School District and state of Connecticut $100 million. That was a shocker.
No one is saying that the families and surviving children were not emotionally damaged and greatly so. But, at this school, the Principal, Dawn Hochsprung, had just implemented a new security system. Take into account that she and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, though unarmed and defenseless, lunged at the crazed shooter to protect the children and lost their lives in so doing. Take into account other teachers also put their lives in the hands of the shooter to save their children, and all that was possibly could have been done to protect those children, was done. If anyone could entertain the thoughts of suing, it would be the families of the Principal and those teachers who lost their lives. But, the fact is, the school was not negligent in providing security. The shooter had broken the glass to get into the school. The first people who tried to restrain him died in so doing. Ask what more could have been done? The answer would be "Nothing".
I was crying as I read the accounts over breakfast. To insinuate that those who gave their lives for the children did anything less than they could have is an outrage. I would hope public opinion would back me up on this, but the parents who sued ought to be so very grateful their child survived even though they and their child are emotionally scarred. Their child will get therapy and yes, the fear all children and parents whose children attended Sandy Hook school must feel is immense. There is no dollar amount to cover that. But, the fact remains all that could have been done, and more, was done.
Their child survived. That is what counts. The school and the state are not responsible for the crazed mind and actions of one person. Had Nancy Lanza not been shot, I am sure she would have been sued. Perhaps, she was negligent in recognizing the signs as to how off balance her son was. Perhaps some of the schools he had attended could have been more proactive in taking a stand that he get help. But, from my knowledge of how a school system works, ultimately, it is the parents who decide. The authority rests with them. And, I believe, the shooter was eventually home-schooled. This was a home in which guns should not have been present or at the very least well secured with a lock.
I know as a substitute teacher with LAUSD (Los Angeles School District), we do have school psychologists. I have reported a child’s behavior to the school psychologist. I had one child who drew pictures of himself being hung. There were other images in his journal writing book which startled me and got my attention. I xeroxed tem and turned them in to administration with a memo. I saw his drawings as a cry for help.
There have been other instances in which a school has been lax or negligent in providing safety, but this was not the case in Sandy Hook. Rather than be sued and penalized, this schools administrator and teachers are to be praised and hailed as heroes. And, rightly, they have been. For this parent to attempt sue is like trying to take something away from the bravery and courage the staff exhibited.
I for one am pleased Attorney General Jepson declared the lawsuit invalid. As an attorney, Pinsky, needed to have exercised better judgment and should have disuaded the parents from suing. Perhaps he saw 1/3 of a huge settlement as a factor in taking the case. Now, he has to figure out whom else to sue for negligence. Perhaps the company that made the glass that was broken? Perhaps the gun shop where the young man had tried to purchase the gun? Perhaps the father of the shooter? The State might have had the money, but private parties would not have $100 million. I am sure Pinsky is trying to figure out his next move and next defendants.
A better option would be for those parents to be thankful their child survived and to be grateful every day. Sadly, other parents have an empty bed in an empty room to face every day. They lost their children. They cannot wake their child up, give a bowl of Rice Krispys, pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grab a backpack, and wisk him or her to the bus. They cannot argue over doing homework and not watching television or playing computer games. Those parents have only a short life time of memories, some only five or six years to carry with them for the rest of their lives. Such fleeting memories. And the families of the Principal and teachers also have only memories of their loved ones left to console them. Had this lawsuit been allowed to go forward, I think it would have tainted the life-saving actions the adults had taken and their families’ memories. Those families would have had to re-live the horror through a trial. I for one am glad the families were spared this ordeal.
In Memory of
Victoria Soto, 27 teacher
Rachel D' Avino, 29, Behavioral Therapist
Dawn Hochsprung, 47 Principal
Ann Marie Murphy, 52, teacher
Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, 30 permanent substitute teacher
Mary Sherlach, 52, School Psychologist
and their 20 young students
Substitute Teacher LAUSD
Central Calling Area Chapter Chair
UTLA Voting Member