As fifth-grade teacher Lazetta Hankerson walked into her classroom Monday morning, the first day of school since one of the deadliest school shootings in the nation’s history, she figured she’d better quickly dispose of the elephant in the room.
“When I sat down, I asked if they had any questions,” the Brumby Elementary school teacher told HLN. Hankerson wasn’t interested in rehashing the painful episodes replayed in the media: Who shot the kids; why did he do it, etc. But her students -- smart, articulate and knowing -- had things that they wanted to express.
“I didn’t let them recap what happened,” she said of students at the medium-sized school in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. “I didn’t want them to tell me how many people died or anything like that,” she said. She said she used the early questions as a way to go over the school’s Code Red lockdown procedure. “The only thing I did was go over how we do our lockdown here.” The principal would later confirm that teachers were to steer clear of any specifics, she said.
As classrooms across the nation returned to school this week, a sense of normalcy was the lesson plan for much of the nation’s teachers -- something the community of Newtown, Connecticut, and Sandy Hook Elementary would have to wait a little longer for. Funerals and memorials were still being planned Tuesday in the city, days after a gunman burst into Sandy Hook and began shooting women and children.
Read more: Are my kids safe at school?
It was still unclear Tuesday when Sandy Hook students would return to class, but it's an increasing possibility is that they may never resume at Sandy Hook.
Hundreds of Newton educators began the day listening to a crisis counselor, specifically learning how to talk to bereaved children, according to the Hartford Courant.
While he cautioned against openly sobbing, Dr. David Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, said: "It's perfectly fine for teachers to become tearful or choked up," the Courant reports.
"They should show their emotions. … If you want kids to talk about how they are feeling, you have to let them know how you're feeling," he said, according to the newspaper.
The shooting has led to a fierce debate over gun control, mental illness and, for many parents and teachers, the jitters. Countless principals, school boards and administrators were reviewing safety plans. Solutions floated in the media over the last few days ranged from homeschooling everyone to arming teachers.
The latter proposal got a reaction on HLN’s Facebook from Elsa C., who identified herself as a teacher. “OMG … no, as an educator I am a teacher [here] to teach. There are people in the campus who are in charge to deal with security within the campuses, they just need to be more visible and more effective security needs to be set in place!”
In suburban Atlanta, Hankerson said her day would go on as normal, save for a deliberate rehearsal of what to do when the worst happened: “In the classroom you go in, you lock your doors, you cover your windows,” she said matter of factly. “You go inside in a corner away from any visibility, and so you’re sitting there huddled, making sure.”