Students across the U.S. nervously return to school after shooting

By Christine Armario

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Dec. 17 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Manuel Moreno, right, walks his daughter Jady, 6, to the Morris Street elementary school, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 in Danbury, Conn. Teachers and parents across the country were wrestling with how best to quell children's fears about returning to school for the first time since the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Associated Press

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Lily Rosell anxiously weighed whether to take her 7-year-old daughter to school Monday morning, the first day of classes since the Connecticut elementary school massacre that left 20 children around her child's age dead.

"I was dreading it," Rosell said outside her daughter's Miami elementary school. "I'm panicking here to be honest."

Rosell said she was looking at vans and any signs of something suspicious.

"Ultimately, if this is going to happen like it is nowadays, it could happen in a movie theater, at the mall, anywhere," she said. "It's now about being in the prayer closet a little more often."

Teachers and parents across the country were wrestling with how best to quell children's fears about returning to school for the first time since the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Around the country, there were scattered reports of school lockdowns in response to threatening incidents Monday.

Schools in Ridgefield, Conn., were locked down after what police there called a "suspicious incident." Police swarmed a high school outside Philadelphia after school security mistook a student's umbrella for a gun. In Florida, three Tampa-area schools were locked down after officials found a bullet on the floor of a school bus.

Chicago resident Melissa Tucker dropped her 9-year-old child off at Jahn Elementary School on Monday morning. She also has two older children.

"I really was worried about sending them to school," Tucker said. "I actually was going to keep them home today and make further calls to the school to make sure what the school is doing to protect people from coming in and out of the school and making sure the doors are locked at all times."

She said she did make those calls and learned the school would be taking extra precautions to make sure all students entering and leaving the building were where they were supposed to be and safe. She said she plans to make another stop later Monday to speak to school staff.

"Now I see why parents want to home school their children," Tucker said.

A western Pennsylvania school district, whose board had voted to eventually arm its school police, instead, got a court order over the weekend so it could arm officers in each of its schools Monday. The court order, first reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, affected the Butler Area School District and the South Butler County School District, both about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh.

Butler Area Superintendent Michael Strutt told The Associated Press his 7,500-student district had an armed officer in each of its 11 elementary and three secondary schools Monday — and likely will going forward.

In Fairfax County, Va., just outside the nation's capital, schools deployed extra police as a precaution. In the elementary schools, teachers were told to acknowledge the shootings if students brought it up, but to direct discussion of the shootings to home rather than the classroom.

By the time Richard Cantlupe received the news of the Connecticut school shooting that left 20 children dead, his students about 50 miles north of Miami had already gone home for the weekend.

And so the American history teacher at Westglades Middle School in Parkland, Fla., was bracing himself for an onslaught of painful, often unanswerable questions when they returned to class Monday.

"It's going to be a tough day," he said. "This was like our 9/11 for school teachers."

School administrators have pledged to add police patrols, review security plans and make guidance counselors available.

And yet, it was pretty near impossible to eliminate the anxiety and apprehension many were feeling.

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