For many months now, there has been much speculation about what did and did not take place at during the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown Connecticut. Some of this speculation has been harmful in various ways. For example, parents of children at the school and educators in the region have expressed to me that inaccurate information about the incident has been painful to them. I have heard this many times before with past school shooting events. Inaccurate conjecture and speculation about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has also had a noticeable and adverse impact on how prepared educators are to respond to school crisis events. Our analysts have noticed a distinct increase in missed action steps and of even greater concern, dangerous action steps during our controlled school crisis simulations since the school shooting in Newtown.
Hopefully, the Connecticut State Police report will provide us with a clearer picture of what did and did not take place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. At the same time, we must understand that there will almost assuredly be some unanswered questions even after the report is released. Having worked seven active shooter incidents in K12 schools, my experience has been that even when you review thousands of pages of police reports, depositions and other documents, there will be some things about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that we simple will not be able to determine with certainty.
As with past active shooter incidents, many people will focus on a few aspects of the incident while some of the most critical lessons we can learn will be largely ignored. This has definitely been my experience with several mass casualty school shootings I have worked including the Thurston High School Shooting in Oregon, the school shooting in Tabor, Canada and the Red Lake Reservation school shooting in Minnesota. Some of the most important lessons learned from each of these tragic school shootings have still not been addressed in many school systems and non public schools in the United States and Canada.
Much of the public discourse following this tragic event has been relatively unproductive creating fear, anger and disagreement over what might have worked while we often ignore many things that are proven to work to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from school shootings. Our hope is that we can learn some key lessons from the Connecticut State Police report on the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School so the tragic loss of lives in Newtown will not have been totally in vain.