Newtown superintendent of schools speaks at hearing - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Newtown superintendent of schools speaks at gun violence hearing


The superintendent of schools for Newtown testified at a gun violence hearing at Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on Wednesday afternoon.

Janet Robinson spoke in front of the Steering and Policy Committee, which is co-chaired by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

On Dec. 14, Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother at their home, then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 26 children and adults.

"I'm here to give a face to the children, the staff and the families of Sandy Hook," Robinson said at the beginning of her testimony

Robinson vividly described what happened on Dec. 14 and explained that the day started "like every other morning."

"Sandy Hook Elementary seemed like the safest place in this suburban community," she said.

Throughout her testimony, she talked about the heroic efforts of her teachers and staff. She said how they "were not trained in combat" and their first instinct was "to protect their children."

"They were no match for a troubled young person with an AR-15," Robinson said.

Robinson was introduced by the recently-elected Elizabeth Esty, whose new district includes Newtown. There were also family members of victims of gun violence in California, at Virginia Tech and Tucson, AZ. 

"You need to help us prevent another tragedy," Esty said.

Esty told those in attendance that she first met Robinson at the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department, where the families of the school children were gathering.

"Janet was grieving," Esty said about Robinson. "She was there with parents of children, who didn't know if their children were going to come home."

By the time Robinson arrived at the firehouse, children were sent back home with their parents. After seeing some children were missing, she realized "the magnitude of this tragedy."

However, Esty said the superintendent spent the next day meeting with board of education members on ways for her children to move on and begin the healing process.

"She was putting Sandy Hook first," Esty said about the inaction of U.S. Congress.

Esty said Robinson would provide "expertise" to the committee to help them move forward and prevent another tragedy.

"I think we are going to see mothers, grandmothers and sisters standing up and saying we need to do better for our children," said Esty, who is one of the newest members of a special taskforce on gun violence. "The president was exactly right. This is about children."

Robinson explained how the "sense of security has been shattered" in Newtown.

"We are a community struggling to pick up the pieces and determine what this new normal looks like," she said.

Robinson ended her speech by explaining an online petition set up by a fourth-grader named Ava to change the gun laws. After getting support from around the United States, the petition had to be taken down because police were worried about the child's safety.

The student asked the federal government to ban semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines for the people of Newtown.

"Semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines end lives and put lives at risk," the student wrote in a letter to U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi. "This will prevent other communities from suffering like we are in Newtown."

Ava asked Pelosi and other members of Congress to visit the donation center and read some of the letters sent in.

"People against changing gun laws should walk through the long hallway and read one card out of every box to realize how many people want this changed," the letter stated. "We would all appreciate anything you can do."

Several members of the House and Senate were at Capitol Hill, even though the session has not started. Many of them told Eyewitness News they want to be apart of what is happening.

Any recommendations by the steering committee will be sent to House as early as next month.

Robinson has served as a superintendent in three school districts and has previously been a teacher, school counselor and school psychologist.

As for how her town will heal, Robinson had an answer for that.

"Newtown is a community that comes together and we are supporting one and another," she said. "And we are going to move forward."

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