Responding to Newtown: Task Forces, Memorials, Support
Students at Sandy Hook Elementary School returned to school today. While the students and families in Newtown, Conn., attempt to establish new routines and continue with learning, others in the state are seeking to ensure that the affected community has support in the future—and that the state does everything it can to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced today the formation of a task force whose goal is to create "meaningful legislative and policy changes" that might help ensure that an event like last month's massacre never happens again. The task force will focus on gun violence, law enforcement, education, and mental health, and will submit a report to the government by March 15.
Malloy was in Newtown yesterday, meeting with teachers and asking how he could help. A spokesman for the governor said that the task force would look at what happened in Newtown holistically. From the press release:
"Shortly after the initial horror and the immediate grief over what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, there was one question on the lips of many of our residents: How do we make sure this never happens again? It's the right question, even as we recognize that despite our best efforts, bad things will happen," Governor Malloy said. "We don't yet know the underlying cause behind this tragedy, and we probably never will. But that can't be an excuse for inaction. I want the commission to have the ability to study every detail, so they can help craft meaningful legislative and policy changes."
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Education Association announced today that it is planning a contribution through its Connecticut Education Foundation to the University of Connecticut's Sandy Hook Memorial Scholarship Fund and the creation of a memorial. The CEA's fundraising goal is at least $1 million.
The CEA will also use the funds to commission a bronze sculpture to Connecticut-based artist Marilyn Parkinson Thrall to commemorate "the heroism and sacrifice that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School." Many of Thrall's sculptures are gentle depictions of children. Jeff Leake, the president of the CEA, said that the organization would talk with the town about where the statue would be located.
Creating memorials to tragedy is a fascinating and difficult task: Here's architect Daniel Libeskind talking about the 9/11 memorial, and a gallery of memorials from architecture website ArchDaily. (Thanks to Amy Wickner for those links.) The final memorial to the victims of the school shooting at Columbine High School, in Jefferson County, Colo., opened almost ten years after the event, and an earlier memorial was the subject of a lawsuit soon after the shooting. It's likely that the community is just beginning conversations about how to create a permanent memorial; temporary memorials, like a line of angels by the side of a road, already dot the town.
The Connecticut AFT, of which the Newtown teachers were members, has worked with Donorschoose.org to set up a page for donations to Newtown teachers. Their spokesman Eric Bailey told me yesterday that the union is already beginning to think about how to help its members through the months that lie ahead.
The White House commissioned a task force on gun violence and mental health days after the shooting; some educators have called for a more school-specific task force to be convened. Here are some more websites and funds that have been set up to support the Sandy Hook community.
Photo: Sandy Hook Elementary students leave on a school bus Thursday morning in Newtown, Conn. Students at the elementary school were returning to classes at an alternative campus, described by police as "the safest school in America." (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty)
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