Connecticut school shooting raises questions for Issaquah school administrators, parents

December 18, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

The massacre at a Newtown, Conn., school raised difficult questions for Issaquah School District administrators and parents in the days after a gunman killed 26 people — including 20 children — on the Sandy Hook Elementary School campus.

Officials sought to reassure parents about campus safety and offer advice about how parents can talk to children about the tragedy.

Local law enforcement agencies, including the Issaquah Police Department, conduct regular training to address mass shootings, or in police parlance, active-shooter incidents.

How to help

Many organizations set up ways to help families of victims and others affected by the Dec. 14 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. My Sandy Hook Family Fund is meant to help families meet immediate expenses, including funeral services, plus ongoing expenses. Learn more at the organization’s website, In addition, the Newtown Memorial Fund is soliciting donations to help families and to establish a permanent memorial to the victims. Learn more at the organization’s website,

What to know

Local school administrators offered advice for parents to talk to children about the Dec. 14 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Issaquah School District parents, students and staffers can report information about suspicious, illegal or unsafe activity at school or can call the district office at 837-7000.

  • Turn off or monitor the television, because news coverage can heighten anxiety, and young children cannot distinguish between images on television and everyday life.
  • Maintain a normal routine. Remain calm and reassuring. Children take cues from parents and adults.
  • Stick to facts and answer questions factually. Remember to filter what you say to a child, and avoid graphic details.
  • Be optimistic and act as a good listener and observer. Pay attention to changes in behavior.

Source: Issaquah School District

The training includes a classroom portion to examine the dynamics of active shooter situations and the equipment involved. The preparations in recent training exercises also encompassed a detailed scenario to simulate a rampaging shooter.

The shooting prompted Issaquah School District Superintendent Steve Rasmussen to discuss emergency preparedness plans for the 24-campus, 17,000-student district.

“We have worked hard over the past few years to develop our building emergency preparedness plans. We have practiced and trained to respond with confidence,” he said in a message emailed to district parents hours after the Dec. 14 incident in Newtown. “Our plans have been developed in coordination with our local police and fire departments, the county’s first responder system and the state department of emergency management. In short, we have prepared extensively.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine said the Newtown massacre should initiate a conversation about gun safety.

“Columbine, Blacksburg, Newtown. It sounds like a litany of Civil War battlefields,” he said in a statement. “But all the killing — the periodic massacres and the thousands of individual shootings between — the killing is about nothing: not slavery or states’ rights or nationhood. The killing is about nothing but mentally unstable people and our continued unwillingness to enact and enforce reasonable gun safety laws.”

Schools remain a common training site for police preparing for active shooter incidents, in part because the 1999 massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School changed the way police respond to such incidents.

Parents face difficult questions

In a training session held last year at Snoqualmie Middle School, officers from Issaquah and other police departments in the Coalition of Small Police Agencies participated in a training exercise to simulate a mass shooting in a classroom.

“The random nature of a sudden mass shooting can make us feel very vulnerable, particularly when innocent, vulnerable children are targeted,” Rasmussen said. “As we try to cope with this reality, we can and must help our children cope.”

Bertie Conrad, clinical supervisor at Youth Eastside Services and a former school counselor in the Bellevue and Renton school districts, said parents must prepare for difficult questions from children.

“It really does depend upon the age. For the younger kids who may have seen some news and are starting to ask questions, I think you want to keep it factual but not elaborate,” she said in a Dec. 14 interview. “Just tell them honestly that there was a killing at a school and that many people died, and that it was a horrible event and we’re very, very sad for these families. But tell them that they will be safe and their schools will be safe. You have to be as reassuring as possible.”

Conrad said parents can use the incident as a springboard to discuss issues, such as school safety.

“I think parents are really in a bind in this situation, because parents are traumatized, too, and parents are still worried about what if this happens at my school,” she said. “The parents have to regulate their own emotions well enough so that the kids don’t take on the parents’ anxiety.”

The incident is even more difficult for Skyline High School students to handle. The shooting occurred hours after a 16-year-old boy, a Skyline student, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a campus parking lot Dec. 13.

“Our school counselors and principals will be highly visible in the schools today and next week,” Rasmussen said. “If you have concerns about your child and would like the counselor to speak with him or her in private, please contact your child’s school office.”

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No Responses to “Connecticut school shooting raises questions for Issaquah school administrators, parents”

  1. Dane Butts on December 18th, 2012 9:58 pm

    There are no such thing as sane firearm safety laws, it’s about people and protection. The exsisting firearm laws in Newtown, Conn. worked, the shooter tried to buy a firearm but was refused, he had to resort to stealing them and restrict firearms as you may, they will find a way to aquire them, mental health, quit allowing the mental handicapped to remain on the street cause he’s no harm to anyone(until he decides to shoot up a school or a shopping mall, to late then..) Protection, security guards at the schools, safe rooms attached to each class room, bullit resistant interior windows, panic alarms in each class room. there are many more things that can be done to provide school protection. choosing a few is better than messing with the rights of gun owners.

  2. Anonymous on December 20th, 2012 10:07 am

    Yes, heaven forbid we mess with the rights of gun owners!

    Instead let’s put armed guards in schools, along with safe rooms, panic alarms, bullet proof windows. Why, we could even have the teachers armed. Maybe a watchtower in the playground, perhaps some foxholes too. Sounds like just the kind of place to send young children to.

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