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Newtown parents: Better communication, layers of security needed

A parent of one of the 20 first-graders killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School says communication between Newtown officials and local families broke down at points in the shooting's aftermath.

David Wheeler lost his son, Benjamin. He told a Connecticut commission reviewing the school shooting on Friday via Skype that if another tragedy happens, there needs to be a better flow of information.

Wheeler says some examples of the poor communication range from delayed notification about counseling programs to deciding to remove photos of victims from the school yearbook without telling families.


"It was as if the first three months of the school year and the people who were lost ... never existed," he said.


"There was no central clearinghouse for information for the ... affected families set up in any way," Wheeler said, acknowledging the school shooting likely overwhelmed government officials.

Newtown officials didn't immediately return messages seeking comment Friday.


Wheeler also said he and his wife were stunned when many officials from governments and nonprofit agencies who were trying to help broke down in front of them.  He added that there should be a better screening process for people being sent in to help families in such tragedies.


"We were the ones who ended up consoling them," he said. "And you can imagine that that is a devastating turn of events for a grieving parent."


Josephine's mom, Michele Gay, is a former teacher who has become part of a school safety foundation.  She spoke via Skype saying schools should use layering of various types of protection and urged better communication within schools.


"It's my personal belief that our gunman would have turned around, and returned home on December 14th had he seen a police cruiser in the parking lot of Sandy Hook School", said Gay.

The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is working on recommendations on school safety, mental health and gun violence prevention.

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