HHS Response to Tragic Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut

Sydney

Principal Alyson Geary comments on HHS's reaction to violent shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Principal Alyson Geary comments on HHS’s reaction to violent shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Photo by Sydney Lauro

By Sydney Lauro
As the week after the tragic shooting in Connecticut progresses, reactions of students and faculty shape the general atmosphere of Hopkinton High School. Both teachers and students have been shocked by the tragedy and are eagerly expecting change in the nation and the High School.

HHS students have not had as strong of a reaction to this tragedy as was seen with the passing of Tom Weaver, leading to the creation of B+ Day. Although, suggestions were made by various students to create a “Meet Me at the Flagpole” event to honor the victims and their families and Principal Alyson Geary led the school in a moment of silence the morning of the 17th and also let the students know that they could go to guidance to talk about the event if they were struggling.

“We haven’t really seen a lot of kids coming down, and I don’t really expect a lot to come down. I think that high school kids take longer to process those kinds of things and they maybe think about it and talk about it with their friends. I think it will come out slowly, sort of over time,” said Principal Geary.

Due to the lack of emotional response, the faculty at HHS do not have many plans to address the event with the kids. The principal believes that students will put something together if they feel inclined, and states that the administration will support them in whatever they plan to do. However, some action will be taken by the faculty.

Principal Geary explained, “[We] talked about having an advisory after the winter break where we’ll talk a little bit about [the event], and just remind everyone about the safety procedures, and ask kids if they have any specific concerns or questions about what might happen in that type of situation.”

Even though there has not been an event created to commemorate the victims of Newtown, many students have been impacted by what happened.

“I have had healthy discussions of the event in several of my classes, which I think is a step towards addressing the tragedy. Everyone has been dealing with it in their own private way, but as town I think we have been sympathetic and respective,” said senior Liam Horsman. “As a country, mass shootings have become such a tragic occurrence…I worry that we’re becoming desensitized to them. This story though, is heart-wrenching beyond anything we could have imagined. Though all mass shootings involve the targeting of innocents, the targeting of young children, especially in school, is particularly shocking.”

Reactions of the faculty are similar to that of students like Horsman.

“It makes me think about how vulnerable we are.  You always think school is a safe place. You wonder if as a society that we do enough about gun control and mental health issues,” said wellness teacher Stacey Place.

This event has sparked a massive response from the student body, faculty, and government regarding reform and how we, as a nation, will change to stop these travesties. President Obama showed his outrage in his speech to the citizens of Newtown.

“Can we really say, as a nation, that we’re doing our job? If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. And we will have to change,” President Obama said. “We can’t accept events like these as routine.”

There were many existential elements to President Obama’s speech Sunday evening, but more striking was his promise to use all his power to prevent tragedies like the one in Newtown from occurring. The general discourse at HHS has begun to revolve around the topic of what will be done.

Principal Geary said, “Are we doing enough with kids that have significant emotional difficulties, and you know, I think that that has to be part of the response. We have to look at who are the ones perpetrating the crimes not just how do we save ourselves from having it happen again. But how do we help people in general so they don’t have that same response.”

While others believe this is going to be part of the attempted reform, the larger question on the rise regards gun control policy.

“I hope it will lead to a ban on assault weapons. I understand Americans’ desire to arm themselves, but no one needs multiple weapons of the type that Nancy Lanza owned. I think this is a reasonable compromise on the gun control debate, for now. I personally hope that legislation will go further than that, but I also understand there are many in this country who would disagree with me,” explained Horsman.

Principal Geary does note that Hopkinton High School has very good safety protocols and that students are well practiced in lock-in and lock down procedures. Hopkinton’s Police Chief reported to Principal Geary that he feels that Hopkinton High School is actually in a very good place concerning the safety of the students.

“I would like us to stay vigilant about safety.  Tell everyone in our lives how special they are because life changes fast.  We need to appreciate what we have more,” said Place.

“I feel that other school districts that don’t have policies in place, or procedures, [will] get policies in place as a result of this and maybe this will become a little more real to them,” explained Geary on what she expects of school districts. “I think at Hopkinton, we just want to remind the teachers and the kids of why we practice, why we have drills, because we want to make sure everybody knows what the expectations are, if something like this were to happen.”

Regardless of what reform does occur, the faculty at Hopkinton High School are prepared for this type of event.

“I think I believe that any adult in this school would do the same thing for their kids that we saw the principals and the teachers do in that school…I just feel very proud to learn about the account of the Principal, and sort of her trying to stop the person and putting her life in danger and ultimately losing her life, and also of the teachers who were willing to, to shield their children…It makes me proud that they were willing to do that. And it definitely makes you reflect on why you do this job,” concluded Principal Geary.

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