When an elementary school became a combat zone, Newtown’s teachers were heroes, reports CNN.

When Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School, Principal Dawn Hochsprung ran toward the gun shots with school psychologist Mary Sherlach and Vice Principal Natalie Hammond. Hochsprung, 47, and Sherlach, 56, were killed.

Four teachers were killed with their students.

Victoria Soto, 27, moved her first-grade students away from the classroom door. The gunman burst in and shot her, according to the father of a surviving student.

“She would not hesitate to think to save anyone else before herself and especially children,” her mother, Donna Soto, told CNN’s Piers Morgan.

Anne Marie Murphy’s body was found in a classroom, slumped over young children killed in the shooting. The 52-year-old special education teacher was apparently attempting to shield them, her father told the newspaper Newsday.

Rachel D’Avino, 29, was a behavioral therapist who worked with autistic children. D’Avino’s boyfriend was going to propose to her on Christmas Eve.

Lauren Rousseau, 30, had dreamed of being a teacher since before she went to kindergarten herself. She had only been hired last month by Sandy Hook and was substituting for a teacher on maternity leave, when Lanza killed her.

Kindergarten teacher Janet Vollmer locked her classroom door when the shots rang out. She took the children into a nook between bookcases and a wall and read them a story to keep them calm. “We’re going to be safe,” Vollmer told them, “because we’re sitting over here and we’re all together.”

I tutor first graders in reading at a California elementary school. There’s no way to bar entrance to outsiders:  Every classroom door opens to the outside. I only know a few teachers there and a few aides, but I’d bet they’d stand between a gunmen and their kids. I’ll be back there Wednesday.

About Joanne


  1. Miller Smith says:

    Such sweet faces. Why didn’t the school protect those dear hearts?

  2. There’s no way to bar entrance to outsiders: Every classroom door opens to the outside

    Are you sure? Aren’t you tutoring in San Jose? Most San Jose schools have lockdown procedures for exactly this procedure. We have to barricade the doors, lock them, and have a procedure for creating a protected area to put the kids behind. I’d be very surprised if it’s only San Jose Unified that does that.

    • …for exactly this kind of *eventuality*, not procedure.

    • I think all districts have lockdown procedures if a threat is reported. But the typical California elementary school doesn’t have a front door that all visitors must enter in order to reach classrooms. Visitors are supposed to check in at the office, but there’s no way to enforce that.

  3. lightly seasoned says:

    Do corporations do lockdown and intruder/evacuation drills?

    • Mark Roulo says:

      I have never worked for one that did.

      I think that some of this is a perception issue: Schools have children, work places do not. The schools *CARE* much more about perceived risk than the typical non-school workplace does.

      Objectively it appears that kids are safer at school than outside it (less likelihood of getting murdered per hour at school than away). If other workplaces are similar, then these drills are kinda pointless … you are not addressing the biggest risk. Unless you are trying to signal that you care.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      It also looks like school lockdown drills may be required by law in some/most/many/all locations.


  4. I once read an architecture story about the most common school design in California, which has every classroom opening to the outside — and not to a secure inner yard, either — plus to an inside hall.

    You can see the issue, no matter how effective the lockdown procedures. And that’s assuming that physically keeping a gunman out is the solution.

    I work swing shift, and after a shift of editing stories about parents who are grateful that their children died in their teachers’ arms (teachers who also died), I can’t post further in such a snakepit of voices who call for slashing those teachers’ pay, eliminating their pensions and disparaging them as stupid loser without a barrage of profanity. So goodnight.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      I did not recall anyone who posted here recently calling “for slashing those teachers’ pay, eliminating their pensions and disparaging them as stupid losers.” But you are quite insistent in this and other recent posts that there is a “snakepit of voices” here. So I went back just now and looked at every comment on every story on the front page of this blog. No one said that.

      Perhaps the closest was allen’s comment in the “‘I am Adam Lanza’s Mother'” post looking forward to “the end of the public education system, and end of the free ride for all those who parasitize upon it.”

      Perhaps you are talking about another blog?

    • Deirdre Mundy says:

      That’s actually pretty smart. If there’s a shooter roaming the halls of your school, a direct exit to the OUTSIDE is your best chance of survival! If 150 kids all scatter into the surrounding neighborhood, he won’t be able to find them. The reason school shooters have such high body counts is the ‘lots of victims in a small space’ issue.

  5. Miller Smith says:

    Dear Mike in Texas,
    To see those beautiful children and wonderful teachers left guarded by nothing more than locked doors with buzzers and large plate glass windows reaks my heart. Didn’t the school have intelligent adults planning and preparing for forseeable actions by the crazy and evil? My school system does.
    I work in Prince George’s County, Maryland at Bowie High School. We always have protection in and immediately around the school. Ever scince I started work there in 1988, there has been a fully armed policeman and many times during the day two or more.
    Our adult leaders planned for crazy and evil a very long time ago and committed to preventing and repelling mass killers with the installation of lethal force in the school with the most precious things in our lives-our children.
    So sincerely and respectfully, Mike in Texas and all else here, Why didn’t they protect the children?

    • I would think the type of classroom found in CA would be safer. If there is nothing to do but cower in a classroom, once the guy gets into your classroom, you are dead.

      If you have an outside exit door, you open it and tell the kids to run as fast and as far away as possible. It’s far harder to hit a moving target.

      That is my non-expert opinion, anyway.

    • Miller,

      Here in Texas the legislature recently cut 4.5 billion dollars from schools. Districts were laying off teachers and cutting programs not hiring armed guards.

      The school I work in is over 70 years old, with glass doors at every entrance. There’s simply no way to stop someone determined to get in, especially someone with the weaponry to blast their way in.
      Our doors are locked and parents have to provide their driver’s license to get in. But there’s nothing to stop a shooter from attacking a teacher outside the building and taking her or his keys and gaining entry to the building. I can think of dozens of other ways to get in the building.

      The school took reasonable precautions. It was an unreasonable situation.

      You’re fortunate to have an armed guard.

      • Miller Smith says:

        Milke in Texas,
        We don’t have armed guards, we have police. We have suffered budget cuts to the point we have not had raises in 5 years and have had several rounds of pay cuts. But we put up with it because the school is not about us.
        The school exists for the children. The very first thing that we must do is make a safe and orderly environment for the children. We must make sure that protection is in place before we put a single budget dollar into anything else. Protection should never be cut. ANd my system always suffers from tight money.
        Which brings us to the very rich Sandy Point school district. Those homes are all over 1.2 million. They have a municipal golf course that cost over 17 million in government subsidies to maintain. And-may God forgive them-always has police stationed at the course for the patron’s protection.
        Mike, I don’t know what the were thinking, but they did not protect the children. They chose to put funding other places.

  6. Miller,

    If I remember correctly Columbine also had armed guards, but given the nature of the attack (by students) and the location (away from where they were) there was little they could do to stop it. In addition, the REAL plan of the Columbine killers was to blow the cafeteria up with propane bombs. Would you blame the school because they didn’t have propane bomb sniffing dogs?

    • Miller Smith says:

      The Columbine shooting started outside the school and then the two boys entered the school building. There was no armed security in the building nor any police either. The boys had free run of the school for an hour.
      That school system did not protect the students.

  7. palisadesk says:

    The armed guard may provide an *illusion* of security (and probably does deter the average thug), but s/he offers no real protection against a marksman with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a combat-ready assault weapon. Such an intruder would simply take out the armed guard first.

    When our founding fathers guaranteed the right to bear arms, the latest technology was the musket. Where should we draw the line? Does every citizen have a right to his or her own grenade launcher, surface-to-air missiles? How about a personal atomic bomb?

    Pseudo-security is not the answer.

    Also, the type of security appropriate to secondary schools (Miller Smith’s example) and primary schools (Sandy Hook is K-4) is dissimilar.

    • “When our founding fathers guaranteed the right to bear arms, the latest technology was the musket. Where should we draw the line”

      We should draw the line exactly where the Founders drew it, at an individual soldier’s personal weapon, so M-16s and AK-47s. In Israel and Switerland practically every household has a fully automatic weapon in the closet. It is not the tool/weapon, it is the culture that is the problem.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        Yes, but if we focus on the guns then we get to hate on the knuckle draggers (gun owners). We get to trot out our new euphemism (Common Sense Gun Laws = gun control). We also get the opportunity to take narcissistic shots (pun not intended) at political opponents with straw men arguments (Caroline, Where are you?). With the added benefit of distracting from engaging in real conversations about national priorities related to mental illness and prescription drug use.

      • I’m all for drawing the line where the Founders drew it, which is no line at all. Some private merchant vessels of that age were as heavily armed as any warship and anyone who wanted to could buy the largest cannons made at the time.

        • Really, Justin, no line at all? Whatsoever??? So if I want a personal suitcase nuke, I should have the right to have one? Really?

          • One of the charms of being a lefty – it takes so little for you to feel so clever.

            Let’s just examine this sophist’s trifle.

            The implication is that if there are any limits there’s no right. If personal nuclear weapons aren’t covered as part of the Second Amendment neither then is a .38 revolver. If there’s a prohibition on the one then a prohibition on the other’s perfectly proper and probably an urgent necessity before which all must bend.

            I’d expound further but you’ll either abandon the thread or abandon the thread after engaging in the flinging of some uninspired insults.

    • Miller Smith says:

      Police offer something. Don’t they? Why else do we have them? Why do we arm them? They are the first line.
      I am one of the teachers who also have a two-way radio and I am to keep my eye open and report anything not right when I see it. All security have radios as does admin and the police also are on our channels. We have camera in all hallways and stairwells and at all locations covering all approaches to the school and the camera room is staffed with radio dispatchers to direct security and police to any location were there is any problem. That, ladies and gentlemen, is protecting the children. Any less and you should close your school.
      Did these rich people think that crazy and evil didn’t come to their good neighborhood?
      In the process of creating the new security procedures I wonder what the discussion was about armed intruders. There will be discovery involving those committee meetings in the years to come.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        Miller Smith, what you propose is not enough to thoroughly protect our children. At birth, all children should have an RFID chip inserted. It will constantly ping their location and be monitored. As they get older, children will be taught how to activate the chip when they sense danger. Rapid response teams will be stationed a short time away from all children. Pediatricians will be required to check that the chip is working properly and all parents will be required to bring their kids to a pediatrician at least once a year. Not only will this save our children from violence from outside the home but it will save them from violence inside the home. The chip will record what happens to the child like the chips in newer cars record what the driver does.

        • Miller Smith says:

          Robert, don’t let the perfect be an enemy of the good. Such a jaundiced view of any preventive actions would require one to jettison all protective behavior and equipment. “Since I can’t be totally protected from death or injury while riding my motorcycle, I shall ride naked at 120 mph with no brakes.”
          What it seems you are saying is to do nothing and let the conditions that allowed the killer unopposed access to the children to continue. Heck, the buzzer and electric door lock-not to mention locking the doors or even having doors at all-could be seen as not worth doing as well. But that assumption about your comments would be silly of me as you do not seem to be a ridiculous person. You are at the least on an education blog.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            I think I am the “Robert” you are referring to. A police officer at the entrance of Sandy Hook Elementary School would not have done a damn bit of good. Adam Lanza would have simply walked up to him, pulled out a gun and shot him.

            To be really secure, you need a number of things: no other entrance, a front entrance that is made of steel and bulletproof glass, and whose door is always locked. Entrance is allowed only when the guest passes through a metal detector on the outside of the door. The police officer on the inside then unlocks the door. Care is, of course, taken that only one person at a time is allowed entrance, and potential guests must maintain a significant distance from the door until they pass through the metal detector and are allowed in.

    • How are the security requirements of elementary and secondary schools different? We have School Resource Officers (police officers that assist teachers teach certain topics in addition to bolstering security) in a lot of our secondary schools in my area…personally, I’d like to see the program expand to all schools.

      • Miller Smith says:

        Good point SuperSub. We have had many report of angry parents and non-custodial parents enter our elementary schools breathing fire. They don’t get very far as they are not unopposed nor facing only the empty hands of teachers and office staff. A trained gun with a radio is there.
        When we see a potentially serious problem, be it by eyeball or camera, our police officer(s) call in a report to all security staff and police back up before going to confront the problem.
        There will always be opposition in our hallways to anyone coming in a blazing away with a gun. There will not be 20 minutes of more of free fire time in our schools.
        Those blessed children and teachers deserved to have protection. They deserved to have someone that have the ability to fight for them.

        They were all alone.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Hardly an original observation: When seconds count, police are only minutes away.
    In every case, the shooter either gave up or killed himself when confronted with armed resistance. Eventually, armed resistance shows up.
    Why not allow already-trained and checked CCW licensees to carry in school. They don’t shoot people, have a miniscule–lower than cops–rate of violent crime.
    An armed guard would be the first target, before the slaughter gets going. But resistance–Trolley Square Mall, Appalacnian School of Law, Pearl, MS–ends it immediately.