The superintendent of schools for Newtown wants America to know about the impact of guns on her students and community.
“Students throughout the district have their sense of safety shattered by this incident,” Dr. Janet Robinson told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell in an exclusive interview. “There is no amendment that says that children have a right to grow up healthy and not be shot at, but it’s just a given.”
Robinson testified at a gun violence prevention hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill. She recounted the chilling details of the December massacre to the Steering and Policy Committee, co-chaired by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Congressman Rob Andrews. The shooting spree killed 20 young students and six educators.
Speaking only hours after President Obama’s announcement of his extensive gun control plan, Robinson began by stating the purpose of her testimony. ”I’m here to give a face to the children, the staff and the families of Sandy Hook.”
“That morning was like every other morning–after all, routines are comforting to kids. Until about 9:30, when a troubled young man carrying two guns, one of them an AR-15 assault rifle, shot out the glass window to bypass the buzz-in system at the door and changed the lives of so many people in the next few minutes.”
Robinson then explained the timeline of the massacre.
“He first went to the office directly across from the front door where normally three secretaries would be working. Only one was there and she flew under her desk dragging the phone with her. Fortunately, he didn’t check. Then he went back out into the hall where he was confronted by the principal, Dawn Hochsprung, the lead teacher, Natalie Hammond, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, who emerged from a meeting in a conference room. I can just picture Dawn’s indignation that someone would dare enter her school and put her babies at risk. It would be so like her to be the protective mother hen and never think of her own safety, but only, of course, of making him stop right then and there. I can visualize her trying to take charge of this unthinkable threat. Dawn, ever the passionate educator, would do anything to protect her charges. That’s where they found the bodies of Dawn and Mary, rushing toward the attacker. Natalie, fortunately, survived the attack with serious injuries.
Adam Lanza then headed for the classrooms.
“The shooter bypassed the first first-grade room and began shooting in the second first-grade room, killing the school’s permanent substitute teacher, Lauren Rousseau, and all but one child, who was clever enough to play dead. By this time, the teacher in the third room had crammed as many children as possible in the bathroom and was trying to find hiding for the others, when the shooter took aim on her and her students. Vicki Soto, who was so excited to finally reach her dream to be a teacher, threw herself in front of her students. Such incredible bravery from a young first-grade teacher! Ann-Marie Murphy was the educational assistant for a young boy with some special needs and she died trying to shield him. As was the case with Rachel D’Avino, a behavior therapist.”
Throughout the testimony, the Sandy Hook superintendent noted the efforts of the teachers and staff whose immediate response “was to protect the children.” But they “were no match for a troubled person with an AR-15.”
Previously a teacher, school counselor and school psychologist, Robinson spoke about her duty to answer the questions from families of these victims, and from families who have children whose sense of security was shattered. “We are a community struggling to pick up the pieces and determine what this new normal looks like.”
She pleaded with Congress for help. “What do I say to parents who want to be assured that when they put their children on the bus to school that they will come home? How do I protect our students without creating fortresses? How do we let our children freely enjoy being children? I have heard that the measure of a society is how they treat their children, so help me give these children their futures.”
Click here to watch Dr. Janet Robinson’s testimony starting at 33:45.