The Sandy Hook Elementary Community has been invited to participate in several forums to discuss the future of the school. I attended the first and, based on shear volume, was not able to comment. I am unable to attend tonight’s forum and have submitted a letter. Here is a copy:
7 February 2013
E. Patricia Llodra, First Selectman
Town of Newtown
3 Primrose Street
Newtown, CT 06470
I want to thank and commend you for your amazing leadership during these trying times. As a Sandy Hook Elementary father (3rd grade daughter at the school), next-door neighbor to a victim (Daniel Barden), and an educator, I have struggled to deal with the ramifications of this tragic horror. I also want to add that I do not envy you and your position and will do everything in my power to support you once a decision is ultimately made.
I wanted to write because I will be unable to attend the meeting tonight for Sandy Hook families and wanted to give you my input. I did have my hand raised most of the night at the last meeting, but totally understand that there were many individuals who wanted the opportunity. I also want to add that the conversation did help shape my opinion.
I asked my daughter her thoughts about Sandy Hook. She indicated how important the school was to her and how she didn’t want anything to happen to it. However, when I pressed further and asked if she wanted to go back, she was uncertain, at best. It got me thinking that, really, she is a young child and doesn’t yet have the executive functioning to understand the ramifications of her choices. I’ve also thought back to Columbine and how the students really wanted to return to the school. After some reflection, I realize that these are uniquely different situations. As a community, Littleton wanted and needed to empower their emerging young adults to be key players in the decision-making process. Our children are not developmentally in that place.
I am most concerned for the faculty and staff who care and educate our children. I would defer much of my opinion to theirs.
What I value most is the Sandy Hook Elementary community. I want that to stay intact more than anything else. We are an established community of families, interdependent and deeply intertwined with one another. This “family” was an important part of our community long before the tragedy, only now even more reinforced, and I would hope that factor would ultimately drive the decision. To me, the school is the people – our children, the faculty and staff, and the parents. The structure on Dickenson Road is just that – a building. While the building might hold memories for some, it is not the community. The Sandy Hook tradition will live on if we maintain her community.
The above represent my opinions prior to the forum. Initially, my opinion was to keep the community intact, but I did not have a strong opinion towards keeping the location of the school at its current site or a new site. Based on the conversation, I now strongly feel that a new school should be constructed at a different location. At the forum you used the phrase “do no harm,” and I think it strongly applies here. The implications of bringing young children (and for that matter faculty and staff) back to the site of a tragedy potentially have the risk to emotionally harm them. This, to me, is unacceptable. While I recognize that some want to be back at that building, this emotional attachment does not outweigh the potential harm. And most important to me, it doesn’t change my opinion that the school is the people, not the building.
Thanks you for your consideration. I welcome any comments or feedback.
Frank LaBanca, EdD
Father • Educator