Lilly Rosell contemplated keeping her 7-year-old daughter at home on the first day of classes since the Connecticut elementary school massacre, but she ultimately decided, like so many other parents, there was only so much she could do to keep her daughter safe.
“I’m panicking here to be honest,” Rosell, of Miami, said as she anxiously surveyed her daughter’s campus. “It’s now about being in the prayer closet a little more often.”
Most of the nation fell back into the familiar, if newly raw, routine of dropping off children at school, all too aware that a mass shooting can happen anywhere, at any time.
Schools across the U.S. beefed up patrols and security plans were reviewed as teachers and students returned to class after a gunman stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, killing 26 people and then himself. A handful of schools were locked down throughout the day as extra vigilant administrators and police responded to any report of suspicious activity.
At least three schools were on alert in Ohio after threatening comments were made on Facebook and Twitter. In Ridgefield, Conn., swarms of parents picked up their children and police were at each school after a report of a suspicious person at a nearby train station. In Philadelphia, officers rushed to a high school after security officers mistook a student’s umbrella for a gun. And in Tampa, Fla., the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office questioned students after a bullet was found on a school bus.
Some parents kept their kids at home. Camille Lacroix-Moulton said her two children both woke up feeling a bit under the weather, so she decided it was best for them to stay home. Her daughter is in kindergarten; her son is in fifth grade.
“Mainly because of my little one. She just turned six, and I don’t want her to hear about it,” the Milford, N.H., mother said. “It wasn’t really me thinking, ‘Today’s the day that something bad’s gonna happen to her. It was more like, a lot of this stuff is going on today. I’m sure a lot of kids know about it, even at her age. So I was more than happy to wait a day and let it die down.”
Chicago resident Melissa Tucker said she only sent her children to school after assurances from administrators that extra safety precautions were made.
“I was actually going to keep them home today,” she said.
One school district in western Pennsylvania went so far as to get a court order over the weekend so it could arm officers in each of its schools Monday. The board had recently voted to let officers have guns but decided to expedite the process. The court order affected the Butler Area School District and the South Butler County School District, both about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh.
Schools held a moment of silence and flew flags at half-staff. Meanwhile, teachers and administrators tried to handle the psychological toll of the shooting, many of them opting for routine rather than a discussion about the shooting.