Newtown Students Remote On 9th Anniversary Due To Threats To Nearby Schools

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Nine years after the devastating Sandy Hook school shooting, absolutely nothing has changed

Trigger warning: child loss, gun violence/threats

Today, December 14th, marks nine years since a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and violently stole the lives of 26 people, including 20 children between six and seven years old, and six adult school staffers. You don’t need us to tell you that absolutely nothing has changed on any meaningful or actionable level since then — there have been more than 350 school shootings in the U.S. in those nine years, and that’s not even counting the countless other gun threats faced by Americans in every corner of the country each day due to lax or nonexistent gun laws.

Though it’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a decade since 26 lives were senselessly taken that day, Newtown students are fully remote on the ninth anniversary, and it’s all due to threats at nearby schools in the wake of the most recent school shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan. Yes, you read that right: After all they have gone through as a community, it’s not even safe for students and staff to honor the victims together, physically, due to the continued threat of violence against them.

Last week, on December 7th, the Newtown Board of Education approved a proposal by Superintendent of Schools Lorrie Rodrigue’s to keep students and educators home on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, citing “calls or anonymous threats that raise levels of stress for the entire school community. In recent days, schools across the state continue to face threats following the tragedy in Michigan,” she added.

“Three years ago, we evacuated Sandy Hook School due to a threatening call to the main office. Anonymous threats add to the level of anxiety, and our goal this year is to minimize the level of stress on students, parents, and staff given the current climate,” wrote Dr. Rodrigue.

Along with using “only age-appropriate messaging in remembrance of the day,” particularly among younger students (truly, does it get any more devastating than having to figure out how to explain the unexplainable to children?), Newtown students started the day with a moment of silence, this year scheduling an abbreviated, fully remote school day, in order to protect students and “relieve some of the anxiety and stress that often accompanies this day.”

In the near-decade since the tragedy, lawmakers and activists across the country have banded together to advocate for sweeping gun reform at a federal and state level, and little has been accomplished as the gun violence epidemic rages on. On the anniversary, President Biden urged the Senate to pass three House-passed bills: One to extend background checks on gun purchasers, another to keep guns out of the hands of abusers, and his Build Back Better act that includes a $5 billion investment in community violence prevention and intervention.

“No matter how long it’s been, every one of those families relives the news they got that day. Twenty precious first graders, six heroic educators, a lone gunman and an unconscionable act of violence. Everything changed that morning for you and the nation was shocked,” said Biden. “We came close to legislation, but we came up short. It was so darn frustrating. And it’s still frustrating now for you and me and so many others. We have to keep up the pressure.”