Tag Archive | "Newtown School Shooting"

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Sandy Hook Parent to Deliver President’s Weekly Address


WASHINGTON, D.C — The weekly presidential address will be delivered by a Sandy Hook parent who lost her six-year old son in the Dec. 14 school shooting massacre in Newtown.

Francine Wheeler, whose son, Ben, was murdered alongside nineteen other children and six educators in four months ago will plead to lawmakers for “commonsense gun safety reforms.

Francine Wheeler, mother of Benjamin Wheeler is seen on stage during the Sandy Hook Promise launch in NewtownFrancine – joined by her husband David – is “asking the American people to help prevent this type of tragedy from happening to more families like hers,” according to a White House statement.

Since Dec. 14, thousands more Americans have died and thousands more families have suffered the pain of losing a loved one to violence.

“Now that the Senate has agreed that commonsense gun safety reforms deserve a vote, they must finish the job and pass those reforms to protect our children and our communities.  Now is the time for all Americans to help make this a moment of real change,” officials said.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Saturday, April 13.

 

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GA Approves Newtown’s CMT Waiver


HARTFORD — The State Board of Education recently approved a resolution to waive Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) assessment requirements for Newtown students in grades 3 through 8, contingent on the passage of legislation by the Connecticut General Assembly to waive sections of state statutes that mandate these assessments.  The General Assembly subsequently passed this legislation today.

“Under the extraordinary circumstances of this terrible tragedy, the district identified this waiver as a specific way we could provide relief during the academic year,” said Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor. “We are grateful for the assistance and cooperation of all parties involved for fulfilling this request from the Newtown community.”

Acting on the request of the Newtown public school district and local Board of Education, the Department of Education began working with Governor Malloy’s office and General Assembly leadership to draft the necessary legislation in order to fulfill the district’s request.  Today, both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously passed this legislation, Bill No. 6599, An Act Establishing The Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Program And Fund, Clarifying The Calculation Of Survivor Benefits, And Authorizing A Waiver Of The State-wide Master Examination Requirement for Certain Newtown Students.

Additionally, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor formally requested a federal waiver for the Newtown school district from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requiring annual assessments and reporting of data.  On Tuesday, March 5, the U.S. Department of Education granted a one-year waiver of the federal requirements related to the annual student assessment for Newtown students grades 3 through 8.

 

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After Newtown, Teachers Are the New Heroes


By Andrew Lam

Long ago in my native homeland, Vietnam, I used to bow. As a grade school student, with arms folded, and eyes staring at my sandaled feet, I would mumble, “Thua thay!” – Greetings Teacher! – whenever I’d run into a teacher in the hallway or enter a classroom.

Such was the Old World tradition that honored and paid respect to the teaching profession.

That habit quickly disappeared, however, when I joined 7th grade in America. My way was entirely out of sync with U.S. culture. American kids were rowdy, wore colorful clothes and sometimes even swore at their teachers. And teaching was not mere instruction in America, I found. It was part babysitting, dealing with the unruliness that was the result of a society that increasingly emphasized self-esteem and individualism over achievement itself.

Teaching is still a noble profession but it’s a difficult and underpaid one, often with work overloads and a shrinking budget that results in classroom overcrowding.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionWith the tragedy of Sandy Hook, however, with 20 grade school students massacred by a madman and two teachers who died protecting them in Newtown, Conn., the image of the teacher in America has gone from an underappreciated chore to that of a hero.

Indeed, if TIME Magazine were to pick its Persons of the Year, it is hard to imagine that Victoria Soto and Dawn Hochsprung would not make the cut. Soto, a first grade teacher at Sandy Hook, hid her students and shielded others from the bullets of Adam Lanza, the assailant who committed one of the worse mass killings in the U.S. history. And Hochsprung, the school principal and mother of five, reportedly launched herself at Lanza, trying to overpower him. Both Soto and Hochsprung died protecting their charges.

But long before the Sandy Hook tragedy, many Americans already knew that a good teacher could, if not save, then change and inspire lives for the better.

Many luminaries from humble beginning continue to cite teachers as the main reason of their successes. Tom Hanks, for instance, thanked his high school drama teacher when winning his Academy Award for his role in Philadelphia. Oprah Winfrey is famously quoted touting the success of her elementary school teacher, Mary Duncan Wharton. “I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan,” she has said. “She so believed in me, and for the first time, made me embrace the idea of learning. I learned to love learning because of Mrs. Duncan.”

And James Baldwin owes much of his formative years to a white schoolteacher who recognized his talents, took him to plays and brought him books. “She was really a very sweet and generous woman and went to a great deal of trouble to be of help to us, particularly during one awful winter,” he recalled in Notes of a Native Son.

My first teacher in America was Mr. Kaeselau, a man whose compassion and kindness comforted my otherwise painful life in exile. Mr. K taught 7th grade English and spent his lunchtime tutoring me when the language was still unfamiliar to my Vietnamese ear, difficult on my tongue. He gave me my first book to read. He drove me home when I missed my bus.

But while influential teachers continue to instruct and inspire many youngsters in this country, the profession itself has taken a hit. While the media loves salacious narratives of the teachers who fail in their duties – there’s that recent conviction of the Texan teacher who had group sex with four high school students, and the ongoing saga of the Modesto, Calif., teacher who eloped with his student, abandoning his wife and kids – many potentially good teachers leave the profession for better pay.

Disaffected teachers cite the lack of parents’ involvement as a primary cause of faltering of education and overcrowding as a major cause of stress.

And even if respect is still associated with the profession, the economy is far from showing its appreciation. Many bright young people who would have gone into teaching have told me they were deterred by financial insecurity. “The only way we are going to make gains in education is if the quality of teachers goes up — and in our capitalist society, that quite simply means paying teachers more,” writes Matt Amaral, a high school English teacher. “This might be the single-biggest solution no one is talking about.”

“I would consider teaching seriously but if I ever want to own a house in the Bay Area, I might as well forget that profession,” a graduate from UC Berkeley once told me. In Silicon Valley, in order to keep talented teachers, there are now housing units being built for many who couldn’t afford a home, as the average salary for a beginning elementary school teacher is around $40,000 in a county where the median income is around $85,000.

Student-teacher relationships seem to suffer in a world defined by social media like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, not to mention sites like RateMyTeacher.com. So many students now blog and tweet about their teachers, and teachers, fearful of defamation, vigilantly troll the Internet. The children’s hour has extended to 24-7 online, and this too adds to the stress of being a teacher.

“Teaching is not a lost art,” the historian Jacques Barzun once observed, “but the regard for it is a lost tradition.”

But perhaps that regard is no longer lost at this extraordinary juncture in American life, after the tragedy of Sandy Hook. The deaths of the innocents and the heroic sacrifice of the two women have ushered our nation to a turning point. Along with the collective need to reevaluate the country’s lax gun control laws, is a renewed reverence of the role of the teacher.

Many, from Peggy Noonan to Fr. Jonathan Morris, a well-known Catholic priest, now refer to ours as a “culture of death” – from gun obsession to blood-soaked video games to daily stories of gun violence to our drone wars abroad –but two women stood at the door of life. If there was unspeakable carnage at Sandy Hook, there, too, was unimaginable sacrifice. What’s more noble, after all, than to give up one’s life so that others may live?

The teachers who died protecting their charges speak volumes to tender human relationships that have always been at the core of the teaching vocation. And so, almost four decades after I gave up that old tradition, to Victoria Soto and Dawn Hochsprung—to all dedicated teachers—I bow.

New America Media editor, Andrew Lam is the author of “Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora” (Heyday Books, 2005), which recently won a Pen American “Beyond the Margins” award and “East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres,” from which the piece above was excerpted. His next book, “Birds of Paradise Lost” is due out in March 01, 2013. He has lectured and read his workwidely at many universities.

Follow Andrew on Twitter https://twitter.com/andrewqlam

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Newtown School Shooting Prompts Renewed Call to Address Violence in Hartford, Other Cities


Updated Saturday, December 22, 2012 1:18 p.m.

By Adam Stulhman, Staff Writer

Long before the Newtown school massacre, Hartford has seen much of its own suffering from gun violence. Between 1998 and 2012, there were 700 lives lost to gun violence. And 200 homicides are left unsolved, according to the Hartford Police Department.

Some residents and officials said they hope that the Newtown tragedy prompts state and city officials to search deeper for answers and find innovative solutions for all communities in Connecticut.

City officials on Friday said one such solution is the Hartford Police Department’s Shooting Task Force, which started earlier this year. The goal of the STF is to “track down and follow 100 of the most dangerous criminals to reduce the risk of gun violence by taking away their guns and rental cars,”said Hartford Police Spokesperson Nancy Mulroy.

With a strong focus on reducing gun violence, the STF is also “focusing on roughly 700 newly released ex convicts.” officials said.

Police Chief Inspector James Rovella said he is working with Hartford Community Service officers, imploring them to work with the families of ex-convicts and victims, getting to learn more about them.

“Knock on their door,” said Rovella. “Build a relationship with their mother, their father, or their baby’s mother, whoever is in the household.”

A Compstat Report from the HPD shows that from Dec. 1, 2011 to Dec. 1, 2012, there has been a 12.5 percent decrease in shootings, from 128 to 112.

Andrew Woods, Executive Director of Communities that Care, says that the problem isn’t just about preventing gun violence, but giving youth more opportunities.

“Kids that are given opportunities are much less likely to resort to violence,” Woods said.

Also, there is also the cumulative effect of violence in the state’s capital city: the mental health of its residents, and how they cope with decades of neglect, some experts say.

Henrietta Beckman, Executive Director of Mothers United Against Violence, feels that mental health has been an issue largely ignored in Hartford, and feels that Hartford has a stigma and perception that plays into the quality of treatment.

“Hartford,” said Beckman, “has dealt with mental health for a long time, and we have been left untreated, not given enough counseling. Being an inner city, there is a difference in the quality of support that Hartford gets versus other populations, like more affluent neighborhoods.”

While Beckman feels terrible for the victims of the Newtown tragedy-and she knows personally how they feel-she wishes that Hartford could receive the same kind of support that Newtown is and will be receiving.

Woods agreed to a point with Beckman that Newtown is going to be getting a lot of resources, but overall he feels that “white people have more resources than people of color.”

“We need an increase in funding and capacity,” Woods said. “We struggle with follow up because of a lack of funds, and it is very frustrating and discouraging.”

Woods also says that Hartford youth that have been victims of violence aren’t getting the help they need, but they have been able to develop survival mechanisms, and believes that if there is a will to move forward, bureaucracies will be able to help effectively.

“Our children have found a way of coping in this environment,” Woods said. “If the will exists, then bureaucracies know how to move.” 

Rev. Henry Brown, who also works with MUAV, got involved with gun violence after he lost someone close to him, seven-year old Takira Gaston. Gaston was shot in the face on July 4, 2001.

Brown spoke about suggestions the community could make to  stop gun violence:

“We are never going to stop the sale of guns, and we need more mental health resources to commit to our children,” Brown said. “We must be more aware of the problem, taking a look into the movies, music, and video games we sell to children and young adults.”

Brown also supported Woods’ belief, saying that there needs to be increased access to mental health care.

“Mental Health is a number one player in gun violence because children at an early age get oppressed by broken homes, and suffering communities,” Brown said. “Kids suffer through an educational system and other community settings that are not as strong as they are in other parts of the state.”

Some community activists are organizing a forum about unresolved homicides: Seeking Closure and Justice. It is slated for Jan. 29, 2013 and will be at the Phillips Metropolitan C.M.E. Church Community Room, 2550 Main St., Hartford, at 5 p.m.

 

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