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Seven years ago last Friday, while most of America was getting ready to start their school day, people were getting ready for their work day and shoppers were in malls and shopping centers in America. There was this school in Newtown, Connecticut, 49 miles southwest of Hartford named Sandy Hook Elementary.

That morning, some hoped it would be a place of joy, wonder, happiness and learning. It was like any other school in the United States, with students coming in on buses, carpools or walking to school. It was a Friday morning and the weekend was approaching at the end of the school day. It was also nearing Christmas, where parties would be going on in various classrooms and gifts would be exchanged.

Those hopes and that day were shattered as a young man that in his own words loathed humanity took it upon himself to destroy the peace and quiet of the school. 20-year old Adam Lanza, took matters into his own hands that day, choosing to be an angel of death by using an assault rifle and killing 26 people in the school, 20 of those first-grade students and the other six adults that were there to be their guardians, guides and stay.

Lanza first killed his mother (who worked at the school) in their home before going on his murder spree. He was a loner of sorts, spending the majority of his time as a recluse, staying in the basement with blacked-out windows, obsessing over violence and following several mass murders that took place over the years.

According to the Hartford Courant, Lanza told an online gamer “I incessantly have nothing other than scorn for humanity.” Lanza had suffered from a form of autism called Aspargers. In documents that were released later, laid bare a life punctuated by issues that led him to separate from his peers. In preschool, developmental speech delays made it difficult for him to communicate with classmates and later, he developed intense germophobia, an aversion to human contact and sensitivity to light and sounds. In his final months, he kept black trash bags over the windows of his bedroom to keep out light, forced his mother to get rid of the family cat and had communicated with his mother through email, even though he lived with her.

Adam Lanza could have faced judgement in a courtroom. Granted, the trial would have taken at least a year or more to get underway and voir dire (jury selection) would be somewhat of a problem and had he been found guilty of 26 counts of murder, he would probably have been sentenced to death or life in prison. Lanza instead chose the coward’s way out by shooting himself.

There are some that believe that Adam Lanza should not be given celebrity status and that the focus should be (and rightfully so) on the victims. 20 kids will never will never get to talk to Santa, get their drivers’ licenses, go to the prom, they’ll never graduate from high school or college or get married and have their own families. Adam Lanza is a coward, plain and simple. While some should not speak ill of the dead, there are exceptions to that rule.

The house that the Lanzas lived in, where he and his mother drew their final breaths on this Earth? Torn down, never to rise again. While the house could have been sold, it held too many memories for those that live in the area. As for the school? It was a crime scene for at least two years while state and federal law enforcement looked at the evidence to determine what happened that Friday morning and to see what could be done to prevent it from happening again.

From 9:40 in the morning to 3:10 in the afternoon (Eastern time), Adam Lanza thought he was judge, jury and executioner. Nancy Lanza was his first victim and 26 others suffered at his hands. Lanza could have done what was right, not what was popular, to quote Paul. Instead, Adam Lanza chose evil. Murderers don’t get hospitals, schools and parks named for them. They are not worthy of that honor. Whatever redeeming qualities Adam Lanza had melted like snow on a Spring day when he pulled the trigger and killed 26 people, including his own mother.

The heroes in this case? The first responders that took care of the wounded and dying, as well as the six adults that were there to protect them first as well as be their teachers. Last Saturday, Newton High School played in the Connecticut State Football Championship game and the home team had 26 angels on their shoulders on the football field as they would win in the final seconds of the contest to win for the first time in seven years. They could be considered heroes as well, as several players had younger siblings that were either injured or killed that day.

There will be news stories that will mention Adam Lanza and that’s fine; it’s part of their job. Let’s also keep in mind the first responders, the Connecticut State Police, AFT and FBI agents that were there seeking justice for the families of those that died. There are some that hold the belief that Adam Lanza’s name should never be uttered again in public. That’s their right as well.

Adam Lanza thought he won the day.

In the end, it was the people of Sandy Hook and the 26 victims that were the REAL winners.

For high schools this time of year, most students are getting ready for prom, baseball, graduation and vacation. Like most high schools, students struggled with subjects that they were probably not going to use the rest of their lives. The lives of the students at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, near Ft. Lauderdale, were about to undergo a change and it was a change that was as welcome as mosquitoes on a summer day in the Sunshine State.

Their peace and quiet as they knew would be changed forever and not for good. A former student, Nikolas Cruz, who once walked among them, shot his way through the school, sending students and teachers into hiding for their safety in the hopes that they would not be the next target. At the end of the horror and chaos, 17 people died, 14 of them students, three of them teachers and several more would be injured. Cruz would eventually be arrested and charged with the 17 deaths as well as the assault on the school. As of this writing, he sits behind bars without any chance of bail.

As for those that were injured, some will eventually recover, while others have injuries that will cripple them for the rest of their lives. Cruz took their peace and quiet and disrupted their lives, destroying that peace and quiet forever. Cruz, who was expelled from the same school that he attacked, is the poster child for the NRA. Cruz, through his appointed public defender, offered to plead guilty and take life without parole for his actions as long as the death penalty was taken off the table. So far, the District Attorney of Broward County and the Attorney General of the state of Florida have not made any decision or comment on that.

In the days following the massacre, students around the country planned a national walkout on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 13 people dead.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told NBC he was proud of the students and their response to the horrific incident. “They are intelligent, they’re articulate, they’re passionate, and they’re committed to securing a safe future for themselves. This is their moment, this is their generation and they’re stepping up and doing what needs to happen,” he said. “I feel so encouraged that this time it will be different.”

Before the Stoneman Douglas students march on Washington, they headed to Tallahassee and spoke to state leaders and it was  Jaclyn Corin, a student who organized the visit. Corbin told the Miami Herald and NBC News, “We are the ones that looked into Nikolas Cruz’s eyes. We took 17 bullets to the heart. We are the only ones who can speak up. We have to be the adults in this situation because clearly people have us failed us in the government, and we must make the change now because we’re the only ones who are going to.”

The students that went to Tallahassee to speak to their leaders saw that failure come to light as house Republicans on Tuesday decisively blocked a move by Democrats to debate a ban on assault weapons in Florida, six days after a massacre that took 17 lives at a Broward County high school.

The bill (HB 219), which would ban the sale and possession of semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines like the kind used by Cruz, has been mired in a House subcommittee for months and has not been heard. Amid rising tensions at the state Capitol, Democrats used a highly unusual procedure to move the proposal directly to the House floor for a debate and vote.

Republicans voted it down, 71 to 36. Several survivors of the massacre in Parkland, watching from the visitors’ gallery, were overcome with emotion and the action set off a firestorm of controversy on social media. They were also overcome with anger and righteous indignation.

These kids saw 17 of their friends die and the Florida Legislature, who were supposed to be their ally, chose party over their constituents. They failed the people of the state of Florida by not allowing discussion on HB 219, which would have effectively banned that type of weaponry in the state of Florida. This was their chance to beat swords into plowshares and do it in front of a group of students that recently lost 14 of their classmates and 3 of their teachers.

Instead of listening to their better angels, they chose to listen to the gun zealots and the NRA. They became cowards, plain and simple and there is hope that when these kids get out of college, they become legislators and vote you all out. While some of them were not old enough to drive, let alone vote, they chose an action that is respectful and peaceful. They let the world know that enough is enough. Their actions drew attention to a problem that needed to be addressed and addressed quickly before more people die needlessly.

That day, the Florida Legislature told the future voters of the Sunshine State that they didn’t give a damn about them. This is cowardice. The bigger question is this. When is going to end, when their child is shot or killed? 14 of their peers are dead. They will NEVER graduate from high school, have a Spring break, go to prom or Homecoming. 3 teachers dead, they will never stand in front of a group of students. They are gone forever and short of the Resurrection, they will never come back. Their blood is on the hands of the leaders they hoped would listen to them and protect them.

This in no way is an attempt to punish the people that own guns, the one that go through the PROPER channels to get a weapon and learn how to use it properly. Instead, it’s a call to our elected leaders to listen to their better angels and pass legislation that makes sense and if that means a re-write of the 2nd Amendment, so be it.

Recently, teachers were allowed to return to the school to get their cars and students were allowed to retrieve their personal belongings. They went back to school on Wednesday and when Wednesday came, there will be 17 fewer people at school. There will be fear and nerves that will be frayed. Those 17 that lost their lives will never walk those halls again. Their voices will be missed.

The elected adults failed the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and in the midst of the chaos, tears and blood being shed and anger, it was the students that chose the better course of action, a course of action that Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King would have approved. They took their anger and beat that anger into plowshares. They will further that action by registering to vote or voting in the upcoming midterm elections.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School chose to do what was right and challenge their leaders to do was right, not what was popular.

It’s time for the adults to follow suit.

In a few days, children across America will make their visits to Santa and hand him their lists as to what they want for Christmas. Gifts will be exchanged, Christmas parties will take place all over the nation, milk and cookies will be left for the fat man in the red suit, snow will be on the ground and carols will be sung in neighborhoods nationwide.

There will be 26 fewer singers that will be with them. Five years ago today, while most of the nation was getting ready for school or that last second Christmas shopping, Hell was released upon a school in Connecticut. December 14 was education’s equivalent to Pearl Harbor. Today is the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shooting that killed 20 students and six adults that were there to protect them.

The FBI recently released records that showed that Adam Lanza planned the killings that December morning. The report, which is more than 1,500 pages long, shows evidence that Lanza planned the shootings and had an interst in chidlren as well as some proof of pedophilia but no proof that he acted on that pedophilia. The records show that Lanza, who would eventually take his own life when he was cornered by law enforcement, began planning the attack as early as March of 2011.

According to the Associated Press and the Hartford Courant, the FBI behavioral analysis unit wrote, “the shooter did not ‘snap’ but instead engaged in careful, methodical planning and preparation. The shooter was ascinated with past shootings and researched them thoroughly. The shooter shared many similar characteristics and behaviors with other active shooters.”

Lanza’s killing spree began that Friday morning when he killed his mother at their Newton, Connecticut home before moving on to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The behavioral analysis unit document did not say what evidence there was that Lanza had a pedophilic interest in children. But another document says an unidentified woman told the FBI that Lanza said adult-child sexual relationships could be “possibly beneficial to both parties.”

The woman, who said she had an “online relationship” with Lanza for more than two years before the school shooting, said Lanza did acknowledge that adult-child sexual relationships could be “unhealthy” and did not express any personal sexual interest in children. She said Lanza believed he might be asexual. She also told the FBI that Lanza compiled a spreadsheet that meticulously documented hundreds of mass murders and spree killings but she didn’t believe he would carry out a mass killing and she said Lanza believed mass murders were a symptom of a broken society and may have believed he was “saving” children from the “harmful influences” of adults during the school shooting.

The documents offer a window into the early days of the investigation, as agents chased false leads and gathered evidence of Lanza’s isolation and include reports by FBI agents who interviewed people about Lanza. Portions of many of the documents were redacted, including the people’s names.

A year after the massacre, Connecticut state police released a final investigative document that concluded Lanza was obsessed with firearms, death and mass shootings but his motive may never be known. That report also mentioned pedophilia. In it, state investigators said they found on Lanza’s computer a file they described as “advocating pedophiles’ rights and the liberation of children.” They also said they found a screenplay describing a relationship between a 10-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man.

One person told an FBI agent that Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, had become concerned about him a month before the shooting because he had become a “shut in” who hadn’t gone anywhere in three months. Adam Lanza shot his mother to death in their home before going to the school. The person also told the FBI agent Adam Lanza never accepted he had Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum and never took medication he was prescribed.

A report by the Connecticut child advocate in 2014 concluded Lanza’s autism spectrum disorder and other psychiatric problems didn’t cause or lead directly to the massacre. The report said Nancy Lanza rejected psychologists’ recommendations her son be medicated and undergo rigorous treatment as a child for anxiety and other conditions. It said Adam Lanza, his parents and his educators contributed to his social isolation by not confronting his problems.

Another person told the FBI that Lanza essentially had become a “recluse” who played video games all day. The person said Lanza had no friends, was computer savvy and became very interested in firearms. Lanza also did not want pets in the family home and did not like to be touched when he was getting a haircut.

So we know more now about Adam Lanza than we did that December day. Given what we know now, Lanza was a troubled soul, short of being egotistical who didn’t care for anyone but himself. Lanza knew right from wrong and in the legal sense, that’s called “depraved indifference,” in which a person that commits a crime knows that it’s wrong but does it anyway.

26 people are no longer with us and the 20 children that he shot can’t come back to us and tell us what happened. The report is long and lenghty and while some of the information has been redacted for the sake of privacy, so not to cause further harm to those family members that lost a child that day. They’ve suffered enough. Granted, Adam Lanza is not with us to tell his side of the story or face justice, which could have happened had he not taken his own life. As for the house that the Lanza family lived in? It’s been torn down. There’s nothing there.


No creature will ever stir there.

Even the birds will shun the place.

Christmas will come. Gifts will be exchanged, Santa will make his rounds and children will have their lists. It’s a sure bet that Adam Lanza made the naughty list. That December morning, while some of us were getting ready to start our school days or finish that shopping, a madman came in and caused harm that will take years if not a millenium to heal. The flaws that Adam Lanza had were exposed for all the world to see and there are those that do not want his name uttered again ever. Adam Lanza tried to drag everyone into his own Hell and failed. There will be no roads named for him, no hospitals will have his name attached to their walls and don’t expect any Adam Lanza Elementary Schools in the distant future.

The window to Adam Lanza has been opened and while the view is not paradise by any means, it gives us a clearer picture as to what happened that day and why. Some of the questions have been answered by this report. Granted, there are 26 people that will never be heard from and that includes Lanza and his mother.

December 14 fell on a Thursday this year. Those that were killed will be remembered in some form and they should not be forgotten. Five years ago today, 20 children who wanted nothing more than to sit on Santa’s lap and tell them their Christmas wishes were silence, as were the six adults that were there to teach and protect them. For those like Rush Limbaugh and Adam Jones that insist that Sandy Hook never happen, they need to read the FBI report or keep silent. As for the NRA, at best they should be held liable (if not criminally responsible) for what happened.

Let’s hope they are NOT forgotten.

The public got a look at the new Sandy Hook Elementary School last week. Built on the site of the old school, the one where 20 students and six educators were killed by Adam Lanza before he took his own life, they saw a new building that was designed to be attractive, friendly to the environment, a place conducive to learning.

And the most important thing?

A place that is safe.

The new $50 million, 86,000-square-foot school was built on the same property but not in the old footprint, and is scheduled to open next month and local officials are hopeful that allowing the public to see the new school will give students a “quiet, respectful and appropriate opening as teachers and students return to the new school year,” Superintendent Joseph Erardi told the Hartford Courant and the Associated Press. The school, built with funds from a state grant, has features in place, including impact-resistant windows and state-of-the-art monitors. As for the ground floor, it will be elevated, which will make it harder for anyone to see inside the classrooms from the outside. It’s also been landscaped to ensure that if you are approaching the school, you’re visible to those that are inside and can enter by way of one of three pedestrian bridges and the outside has been changed to invoke nature, with tree houses and courtyards.

The driveway and parking lots? They’ve been changed as well, done so to minimize the emotional impact on teachers and students that will be seeing the property for the first time since the shooting in December 2012.

In a statement to the media, First Selectman Pat Llodra said, “Our goal was to create a place of community and learning, a place that would honor those we lost and allow those who were left behind the chance to move forward.”

Since the shooting, Sandy Hook students have been attending school in neighboring Monroe, which renovated a previously closed elementary school for the Newtown children after the shooting. The new school will serve students from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.

As for the student population, there will be about 390 students enrolled this fall and 70 of those, all now fourth-graders, were students at the old school when the shooting occurred, Erardi said. About 35 of them were in the building at the time, he said, attending the morning kindergarten session.

Fortunately, None of them witnessed the shootings, which were heard throughout the school, prompting students to hide where they could in their classrooms until the building was cleared by police. The shooting occurred before the afternoon kindergarten session. Erardi also said that because of retirements and transfers, about 60 percent of the staff members from
the original Sandy Hook are still with the school and the school district will provide those students and staff with special resources to help cope with the return and added that a three-year, $7.1 million grant to fund added mental health professionals has expired. But grants from charities will cover those costs.

As for a memorial to those 20 students and six educators that died that day, there will not not have a prominent memorial to the Sandy Hook victims and Erardi declined to say whether they will be remembered in some other way. He told the Courant “I’m going to pass on answering that, because it involves the conversations I’ve had with the impacted families and those will always remain confidential.” Llodra said the town is still deciding on a permanent memorial. “That will not be on this site, there is nothing subtle that you missed,” Llodra said.

While most of America’s school children are dreading the start of school, there are some that are excited to see their friends and new teachers, 20 young souls will never get to have that experience again. They will never have the chance to have recess, swap lunches, play, learn, laugh and exchange Christmas or Valentines Day cards. They are gone, wiped off the planet by a madman that decided to promote his own agenda. I wouldn’t blame anyone at Sandy Hook Elementary School if Adam Lanza’s name was never uttered again. He doesn’t deserve it. He deserves to be scorned forever. Adam Lanza could have surrendered and at the very least, stand trial for his actions. He chose the coward’s way out.

August 29th falls on a Monday, a week before Labor Day. While students prepare for that day to start the learning process all over and teachers and staff prepare for a year of learning, laughter and fun, let’s not forget the ones that died, the ones that were minding their own business, getting ready to learn while most of America was starting their school day in the Eastern and Central time zones.

In one classroom, a refrigerator magnet reads “We are Newtown, we choose love.”

Adam Lanza though he destroyed Sandy Hook. In the end, Adam Lanza failed and did so miserably. The remaining students, faculty, staff, nation and community rallied around their school.

They chose to rise from the ashes and rebuild.

They chose to be butterflies.

The NFL Foundation, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), Gatorade and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) announced the winners of the Athletic Trainer Initiative, a national grant contest to expand access to athletic trainers in underserved high schools and improve youth athlete safety. The fifteen winning schools each received $50,000 to develop athletic training programs that will provide nearly 5,000 student athletes with consistent access to this valuable resource. The announcement was made at the seventh-annual Youth Sports Safety Summit, hosted by NATA and the Youth Sports Safety Alliance.

The winners of the national grant contest are (more details included below):
Alden-Conger Public School (Alden, Minnesota)
Attica Central School (Attica, New York)
California Lutheran High School (Wildomar, California)
Canyon Ridge High School (Twin Falls, Idaho)
Carlisle High School (Henderson, Texas)
John Muir High School (Pasadena, California)
Lutheran High School (Chula Vista, California)
Marist High School (Bayonne, New Jersey)
Mount St. Michael Academy (Bronx, New York)
Orrick R-XI High School (Orrick, Missouri)
Pleasant Valley High School (Chico, California)
St. Anthony Village High School (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
St. Thomas More High School (Rapid City, South Dakota)
Walpole High School (Walpole, Massachusetts)
William V. Fisher Catholic High School (Lancaster, Ohio)

Ten additional high schools will receive an athletic safety presentation given by a local athletic trainer and a safety kit, which includes a Hydration Starter Kit from Gatorade and educational materials.

“This effort addresses a critical need and provides the means for these high schools to establish athletic training programs that will enhance the health and safety of their student athletes,” said Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of health and safety policy. Miller told the Associated Press and USA Today, “This is an area of priority for us and we will continue to work with our partners to expand access to athletic trainers in more schools across the country.”

Athletic trainers play a vital role in the health and safety of athletes. A recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that the presence of athletic trainers resulted in lower overall injury rates, improved diagnosis and return-to-play decisions for concussion and other injuries, and fewer recurrent injuries for student athletes. However, nearly two-thirds of high schools lack a full-time athletic trainer and almost thirty-percent do not have access to any athletic training services. This grant contest helps to tackle this need by providing schools with the necessary funding, educational resources and programmatic support to put athletic trainers on the sidelines and better protect their athletes.

“A top priority of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association is the health and safety of the high school athlete,” said NATA President Scott Sailor, EdD, ATC. “Through our partnership with the NFL, Gatorade and Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society, more students will be protected with the best possible safety measures in place.”

The grant contest, which launched in October, is an extension of the partners’ athletic training outreach program. The partners have committed more than $3 million to help fund athletic trainers in communities nationwide. To date, the outreach program has impacted an estimated 160,000 student athletes across more than 670 schools.

“We understand the importance of secondary school athletic trainers and believe partnerships like this one are key to ensuring youth athlete safety,” said Jeff Kearney, head of Gatorade Sports Marketing. “This program has brought us one step closer to the ultimate goal of having a full-time athletic trainer in every high school in the country and we are proud to have worked with the NFL, NATA and PFATS on this important initiative.”

“The Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society is pleased to be a part of this important initiative,” said Rick Burkholder, MS, ATC, PFATS president and head athletic trainer of the Kansas City Chiefs. “Athletic trainers play a critical role in the overall safety of all athletes, and the students at these winning schools will receive the medical services they so deserve.”

About The NFL Foundation: The National Football League Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those touched by the game of football – from players at all levels to communities across the country. The NFL Foundation represents the 32 NFL clubs and supports the health, safety and wellness of athletes, youth football, and the communities that support our game. For more information on The NFL Foundation, visit:

About NATA: National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) – Health Care for Life & Sport Athletic trainers are health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses. They prevent and treat chronic musculoskeletal injuries from sports, physical and occupational activity, and provide immediate care for acute injuries. Athletic trainers offer a continuum of care that is unparalleled in health care. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association represents and supports 43,000 members of the athletic training profession. Visit

About Gatorade: The Gatorade Company, a division of PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP), provides sports performance innovations designed to meet the needs of athletes at all competitive levels and across a broad range of sports. Backed by a 50 year history of studying the best athletes in the world and grounded in years of hydration and sports nutrition research at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, Gatorade provides scientifically formulated products to meet the sports fueling needs of athletes in all phases of athletic activity. For more information and a full list of products, please visit

About PFATS: The Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) is a Professional Association representing the athletic trainers of the National Football League. We serve the players of the NFL, the member Clubs and other members of the community. Our purpose is to insure the highest quality of health care is provided to the National Football League. We are dedicated to the welfare of our members and committed to the promotion and advancement of athletic training through education and research. The Society is founded on the professional integrity and the ethical standards of our members and the fellowship that exists among us. “PFATS cares to make a difference.”

Athletic Trainer Initiative Contest Winners:

Alden-Conger Public School (Alden, Minnesota) – Due to budget and accessibility constraints, Alden-Conger has no athletic trainer coverage at practices or games for any of their sports programs. The grant will allow the school to launch its own athletic training program and work with local clinics to offer additional services to student athletes for injury treatment and recovery.

Attica Central School (Attica, New York) – Attica is one of the few schools in its conference without an athletic trainer. The grant will allow the school to hire a full-time certified athletic trainer and purchase the necessary supplies and equipment to provide full athletic training services for all of its sports programs.

California Lutheran High School (Wildomar, California) – Due to budget constraints, California Lutheran has no athletic training services for its student athletes and relies on coaches to assess and treat injuries. The grant will allow the school to launch an athletic training program and provide a training facility on campus. Additionally, the school plans to establish a concussion protocol system and implement baseline testing for all of its student athletes.

Canyon Ridge High School (Twin Falls, Idaho) – Canyon Ridge lacks access to an athletic trainer and relies on parent volunteers to assist with medical needs for its 16 sports programs. With the grant, the school will be able to afford a partnership with the local hospital to provide an athletic trainer within the school. In addition, the school plans to restart its athletic training development program for students and offer concussion awareness seminars for student athletes, coaches and parents.

Carlisle High School (Henderson, Texas) – Carlisle has no athletic trainer coverage at practices or games. With the grant, the school hopes to hire a full-time athletic trainer and establish a training facility for its sports programs at both the junior high and high school. The school also plans to implement a sports medicine program for students interested in the profession.

John Muir High School (Pasadena, California) –John Muir has no access to an athletic trainer and relies on volunteers to support coaches with medical needs at games. This prevents the school from implementing proper injury prevention and assessment methods and providing the necessary equipment to ensure the safety of their student athletes. The grant will allow the school to hire a full-time athletic trainer and provide athletic training services – staff, facilities, equipment, supplies and access – for all. Currently lacking proper equipment, the school plans to use the funds to obtain diagnostic tools and technology for proper evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of concussions.

Lutheran High School (Chula Vista, California) – Lutheran currently relies on coaches for medical coverage during practices and games. This grant will allow Lutheran to launch an athletic training program with a full-time athletic trainer, permanent training facility and proper equipment and supplies.

Marist High School (Bayonne, New Jersey) – Marist currently does not have the funds to employ an athletic trainer and has minimal athletic trainer coverage for its sports programs. With the grant, Marist hopes to establish a formal athletic training program with a full-time athletic trainer, training facility and proper supplies and equipment to improve care for its student athletes.

Mount St. Michael Academy (Bronx, New York) – Currently, Mount St. Michael can only support a part-time athletic trainer for its 17 athletic programs. The grant will allow the school to hire a full-time athletic trainer for the 2016-2017 school year.

Orrick R-XI High School (Orrick, Missouri) – Due to budget restrictions, the school has no athletic trainer coverage and relies on coaches for injury assessment and treatment. The grant will enable the school to provide student athletes with athletic training services from the top sports medicine facility in the area. Students will also have access to the sports medicine clinic for rehabilitation and care.

Pleasant Valley High School (Chico, California) – Budget constraints have impacted Pleasant Valley High’s ability to employ a full-time athletic trainer. The school has more than 1,200 student athletes that lack access to an athletic trainer and rely on coaches to provide medical care. With the grant, the school hopes to hire a full-time California teaching-credentialed athletic trainer, who would provide coverage at all sporting events, as well as teach sports medicine and health courses at the school.

St. Anthony Village High School (Minneapolis, Minnesota) – St. Anthony Village is the only public high school without consistent athletic trainer coverage in the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area. The school currently has athletic trainer coverage for only varsity contests in two sports and no coverage for junior varsity and other lower-level programs. With the grant, the school will be able to provide athletic trainer coverage for all of its practices and home sports events. In addition, the school will begin baseline concussion testing for all of its student athletes to improve diagnosis and treatment.

St. Thomas More High School (Rapid City, South Dakota) – St. Thomas More currently has minimal athletic trainer coverage, limited to a few practices and varsity home games and lacks the proper space and equipment for an adequate athletic training program. The school plans to use the grant to boost athletic trainer coverage, refurbish its facility for athletic training services and offer sports medicine courses for students interested in the profession.

Walpole High School (Walpole, Massachusetts) – Walpole currently relies on a part-time athletic trainer for coverage of more than 20 athletic programs and more than 800 student athletes. The grant will allow Walpole to employ a full-time athletic trainer and expand their training facilities to better meet the needs of the student athletes.

William V. Fisher Catholic High School (Lancaster, Ohio) – Due to budget constraints, William V. Fisher Catholic High School can only afford minimal athletic trainer coverage for its sports programs and relies on coaches to manage injuries. With this grant, the school plans to hire a full-time athletic trainer for its sports programs, as well as update its athletic training room with new equipment and supplies. As an employee of the school, the athletic trainer would also teach educational and development courses to students interested in careers in athletic training. In addition, the funds will provide the school the ability to implement baseline concussion testing for its students.

Christmas came.

Christmas went.

The gifts were opened, the toys played with over and over again until either the batteries died or they were broken.

For 20 families in Newtown, Connecticut, there were 20 less children playing with toys. 20 less children filled with joy and glee over the gift they had been writing Santa to and bugging their parents about. 20 less little angels trying to get peeks at Santa to see if he’s real and the reindeer fly.

December 14 of 2012 for some of us was just another school day. It marked the one week period to Christmas break. It was a normal day for some until a madman came in and destroyed the peace and quiet of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

On that day, 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza terrorized the town 49 miles south of Hartford, with a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle — killing 20 schoolchildren, six school staffers, his mother and himself. The town’s quiet downtown Main Street has been stripped of any ribbons, memorials and mementos of that horrible day.

Adam Lanza was no Santa Claus that day. Adam Lanza was more like the Grinch and Scrooge rolled into one. But unlike Lanza, even the Grinch and Scrooge had a heart and soul and knew that their actions were wrong and chose to make the change. They chose to listen to their better angels. Adam Lanza? He did not.

Few memories are left of that day. The house where Lanza started his murder spree when he shot and killed his mother is gone. Torn down, never to rise again. However, there is hope and like the mythical bird the Phoenix, on the site of the Sandy Hook Elementary school, a new elementary is rising where the old one was knocked down. After becoming a crime scene, the old Sandy Hook Elementary was razed in 2013 and last week construction workers were building a new school on the same Dickinson Drive property. The new building is rising near where the old one stood but not in its exact footprint — the plan is to leave the tragic site as green space. The flagpole from the old school will be the only relic of the place where the attack happened.

“No one is going to forget what happened,” said George Marnelakis, who owns the Blue Colony Diner in town. He told the Hartford Courant, “We don’t need reminders. I don’t think anyone wants to talk about it. The families want to heal.” One of Newtown’s few markers for those lost three years ago is an angel statue standing near St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, where many of the funerals were held.

Retired Newtown Police Officer Mike Brokaw, 60, recently took a minute to reflect in front of the small monument, known as the “Angel of Hope.” Someone had placed white flowers in the angel’s outstretched hands. “I remember when the call came in. I ran over there,” he said. “It was a hard thing to even fathom. It was an unbelievable scenario.”

While 20 children died, let’s not forget the six adults at the school that tried to save the children that were in their care. They took the term “in loco parentis” to the highest of heights, standing up to Lanza and dying in their efforts to save those that were injured and keep the death toll down.

In a few days or so, schools will reopen for the second half of the school year. A few days after that will be MLK Day, then Valentine’s Day, then Spring, Easter and the last day of school. For some, when that last day of school comes, children will leave and enjoy their Summers off. That will not be the case for the 20 that died that Friday morning in Newton. They were innocent victims that probably didn’t know Adam Lanza from any other adult that walked through that school.

20 fewer children and six fewer adults celebrated Christmas on this Earth December 25th in Newtown, Connecticut. Adam Lanza’s actions that day if nothing else should tell us that it is time that we have a discussion about gun control, even if it means that one side would have to be taken to the table kicking and screaming. This was no hoax, it wasn’t staged and there wasn’t a director yelling “cut” a the end. It was real. Let me say it again, it was REAL and people that didn’t need to die or deserve to die did so. It’s time that the NRA join the rest of us in the real world and take some form of responsibility, not washing their hands like Pilate.

This is not about taking guns away from those that purchase them legally, it’s about keeping them out of the hands of those that don’t need or deserve them.

Adam Lanza was irresponsible that morning. He knew right from wrong and chose wrong. Adam Lanza could have faced justice and probably would have been treated fairly. He probably would have been punished but he would have been treated fairly. Instead, Adam Lanza chose to take himself out by shooting and eventually killing himself.

Newton continues to move on. What happened cannot be undone. You can’t un-ring a bell, as the saying goes. Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn, they will find comfort.” For the 20 children and six adults that died that December morning, they celebrated Christmas in Heaven with the angels.

Like the scene in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” there were empty chairs. Those 20 children will never grow up and have the experience of seeing their own children get up on Christmas morning. Adam Lanza may have taken the physical and he may have taken the emotional but he failed at taking the spirit of Christmas. Adam Lanza’s name hopefully will never be uttered again in that town, unless a swear word follows it. He deserves our scorn and anger.

God bless us, everyone.

A trial that sent shockwaves through the educational system in not only Atlanta but nationwide came to an end last week. While there were 12 on trial, only one escaped the long arm of the law and went home free.

The other 11 were not so fortunate. Lives ruined. Careers destroyed. And for what? To improve the test scores of students in their care. 26 counts were read in Fulton County Court by Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter last Wednesday.

11 lives were ruined. After seven years after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigated the cheating that went on involving standardized testing in the Atlanta Public School system. Only one person, Dessa Curb, is free after being found not guilty on all counts. Could this mean the end of standardized testing not just in Georgia but nationwide? After all, there was a conspiracy to change scores and some teachers and administrators were required to do that and were rewarded for their actions. A grand jury indicted 35 educators in March 2013. Twenty-one took plea deals, and another defendant, former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall, died.

Educators have said they faced pressure from supervisors to inflate standardized test scores to show gains in student achievement. In their report on the cheating scandal, investigators wrote that Dr. Beverly Hall, the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” that had permitted “cheating — at all levels — to go unchecked for years.” Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis told jurors that the chances of the number of wrong to right erasures on the 2009 CRCT in Atlanta Public Schools was one in a quadrillion and called it a vast conspiracy, according to the AJC and WSB-TV.

Willis said that “And the purpose of this conspiracy was this: To illegally inflate test scores and to create a false impression of academic success for many students in the Atlanta Public School system.” Some teachers, said Willis, gave students the right answers in the classroom. Others, she said, held erasure parties to change wrong answers to right ones. “And the answer that students wrote down on their exam that were wrong, they erased them and they put the right answer. That’s the only way you’ll hear they cheated,” said Willis.

Attorney Bob Rubin, who represents Dana Evans, former principal at Dobbs Elementary, said his client is really innocent. “She was a servant leader. Know who else was a leader? Jesus Christ,” said Rubin. The investigators wrote that cheating was commonplace in individual schools — at one, for instance, a principal wore gloves while she altered answer sheets — but they also said that the district’s top officials, including Superintendent Beverly L. Hall, bore some responsibility. Investigators wrote in the report wrote that Dr. Hall and her aides had “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” that had permitted “cheating — at all levels — to go unchecked for years.” Officials said the cheating allowed employees to collect bonuses and helped improve the reputations of both Dr. Hall, a former administrator in New York City and New Jersey and the perpetually troubled school district she had led since 1999.

Dr. Hall, who died on March 2 of breast cancer, insisted that she had done nothing wrong and that her approach to education, which emphasized data, was not to blame. “I can’t accept that there is a culture of cheating,” Dr. Hall said in an interview with WSB-TV and the AJC in 2011. “What these 178 are accused of is horrific, but we have over 3,000 teachers.” But in March 2013, a Fulton County grand jury accused Dr. Hall and 34 other district employees of being complicit in the cheating. The indictment accused them of racketeering and other crimes that together carried decades in prison. Twenty-one of the educators reached plea agreements and detailed their transgressions before Judge Jerry W. Baxter of the Fulton County Superior Court in exchange for lesser punishments, including probation. (Two defendants, including Dr. Hall, died before they could stand trial.) For their 30 pieces of silver, these teachers, principals and administrators betrayed the trust of their peers, their communities and the students they were supposed to help and guide. Their actions were not just misguided, they were criminal, as they were tried under the RICO act.

Fulton County Prosecutor Clinton K. Rucker, pleaded with jurors to convict the dozen educators seated across Courtroom 1C. “We’re not saying these defendants are devils or Satan or anything like that,” he said. “They did a bad thing that affected a whole lot of people.” So these adults, who the children of the affected schools looked up to as heroes, now wonder what will happen to them. Some are calling for tighter standards with regard to these “high stakes” tests, which makes a school look good but doesn’t tell the whole story. Others are calling for an abolishment of these tests altogether, saying they are a waste of time, energy and money. The time that is used for the exams could have gone to more classroom time for the teachers and students and the money spent could have gone to pay raises. It’s not just if Johnny can fill in the dots, it’s “what did Johnny learn over the year and did he retain any or all of it?” They are not devils, they’re not even Satan. They did commit crimes that destroyed the trust of their peers and the school system they served.

Pending appeals, some will spend as much as the next 20 years of their lives in prison, others if they are lucky will get probation but most will surely lose their license to teach anywhere for the rest of their lives. 12 stood trial. One walked away and is free to tell her story. The other 11 will sit in prison cells and wonder what happened to them and the students they were supposed to protect and like Jesus in the garden, they will feel betrayed.

The 11 Convicted (courtesy WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Sharon Davis-Williams, School Resource Team Executive Director, Violation of racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations act (RICO): GUILTY, False statements: NOT GUILTY

Tamara Cotman: School Resource Team Executive Director, RICO: GUILTY

Michael Pitts:  School Resource Team Executive Director, RICO: GUILTY, Influencing witnesses: GUILTY

Dana Evans: Dobbs Elementary Principal, RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY

Angela Williamson: Dobbs Elementary Teacher: RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY, False swearing: GUILTY

Dessa Curb: All counts: NOT GUILTY

Shani Robinson: Dunbar Elementary Teacher, RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY

Pamela Cleveland: Dunbar Elementary Teacher, RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY

Diane Buckner-Webb: Dunbar Elementary Teacher, RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY

Tabeeka Jordan: Deerwood Elementary Asst. Principal, RICO: GUILTY, False statements: NOT GUILTY, Theft by taking: NOT GUILTY

Donald Bullock: Usher-Collier Heights Elementary Testing Coordinator , RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY, False swearing: GUILTY

Theresia Copeland: Benteen Elementary Testing Coordinator , RICO: GUILTY, Theft by taking: NOT GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY

We wonder where they are now. We wonder what their lives are like since they were in that detention room on that Saturday, while most of us were watching cartoons. Did Andrew Clark become that athlete he wanted to be? Did Allison Reynolds finally get her life back togther and stop being a “basket case?” What about Claire? Is she the same person that she was or did she get her ducks in a row? What about Brian, the brain? His parents had pressured him into getting good grades and hopefully he went to his dream school.

We also wonder what happened to John Bender. They went to the same school and that was about the only thing they had in common. Bender, who was labled by some as a “criminal” didn’t play well with others and had a particularly antagonistic relationship with Vernon, ignores the rules and frequently riles up the other students, teasing Brian and Andrew and harassing Claire. Allison is initially quiet except for the occasional random outburst. Yes, they were teens. They were a bit on the rebellious side and for their actions, they were punished. But that punishment came at the hands of their vice principal Richard Vernon, who made Adolf Hitler look like a choirboy.

Five misfits with the only common bond was that they were stuck in the same room, not being allowed to speak, move from their seats or sleep for a period of 8 hours and 54 minutes, chose to band together as one. In that time from 7:06 a.m. to 4 p.m., they discover that they have a lot more in common and in time, they open up to each other and reveal secrets that would have crushed others.

Allison is a compulsive liar, Andrew can’t think for himself and has an overbearing father that has forced him into sports, John’s from a troubled household where he is abused, Brian has been under pressure to pull his grades up after one academic failure and has even thought about taking his own life and Claire comes from a divorced home where her parents use her to settle old scores. Gradually, they open up to each other and reveal their deepest personal secrets: Allison is a compulsive liar, Andrew can’t think for himself, John comes from a troubled household, Brian has contemplated suicide due to a bad grade and Claire is a virgin who feels constant pressure from her friends. They also discover that they all have strained relationships with their parents; Allison’s parents ignore her, Andrew’s father forces him into sports, John’s dad abuses him, Brian’s parents put immense pressure on him to get good grades. Claire’s parents use her to get back at each other. They fear making the same mistakes as the adults around them. The students realize that despite their differences, they face similar pressures and complications in their lives.

Five people with different backgrounds, religions and belief systems in a room that seemed like a prison camp. They eventually come together and in time, come together as one to show their vice principal that they have been judged unfairly. As their sentence ends, the others ask Brian to write their essay for them. Brian goes one better. Rather than writing about the topic that was assigned to them, Brian writes a letter that tells their judge and jury that he is wrong about them.

An athlete, a basket case, a princess, a brain and a criminal.

They accepted their punishment but not without protest. The essay was their tea bags and they were going to be the ones that threw them into the harbor. These mice didn’t just squeak. Like Katy Perry, they roared. Brian’s essay: Dear Mr. Vernon, We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain and an athlete and a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.

We sometimes wonder what happened to them.

Did The Breakfast Club become better than the sum of their parts? Did they move on with their lives and even go on to change them? Did they marry and have kids? The world may never know. But one can wonder.

While most schools have already started and others will start after Labor Day, a letter was written to teachers in Sandy Hook. It wasn’t just any letter. It was a letter written by the mother of one of the young victims. It was a letter that needs to be read by everyone.

Nebla Marquez-Greenhad is the mother of two children that attended Sandy Hook Elementary; they were both present the day of the shooting, but tragically her daughter Ana Grace was killed in the massacre. Her letter, which was posted on the Education Week website, is so powerful. It goes out to all teachers but anyone that works with children, whether they’re teachers, paraprofessionals, volunteers, coaches, et all as well as the gun right zealots need to read this.

Here is the entire letter, courtesy of the Education Week website.

“As another school year begins and old routines settle back into place, I wanted to share my story in honor of the teachers everywhere who care for our children.  

I lost my 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace on December 14, 2012, in the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My son, who was in the building and heard the shooting, survived.  

While waiting in the firehouse that day to hear the official news that our daughter was dead, my husband and I made promises to ourselves, to each other and to our son. We promised to face the future with courage, faith and love.

As teachers and school employees begin this new year, my wish for you is that same courage, faith and love.

It takes guts to be a teacher. Six brave women gave their lives trying to protect their students at Sandy Hook. Other teachers were forced to run from the building, stepping over the bodies of their friends and colleagues and they came right back to work.

When I asked my son’s teacher why she returned, she responded, “Because they are my kids. And my students need me now more than ever.” She sent daily updates on my son’s progress, from his behavior to what he’d eaten for lunch. And four months later, when my son finally smiled one day after school, I asked him about it. His response? “Mom. My teacher is so funny. I had an epic day.”

While I pray you will never find yourself in the position of the teachers at Sandy Hook, your courage will support students like my son, who have lived through traumas no child should have to.

Your courage will support students who are left out and overlooked, like the isolated young man who killed my daughter. At some point he was a young, impressionable student, often sitting all alone at school. You will have kids facing long odds for whom your smile, your encouraging word, and your willingness to go the extra mile will provide the comfort and security they need to try again tomorrow.  

When you Google “hero,” there should be a picture of a principal, a school lunch worker, a custodian, a reading specialist, a teacher or a bus monitor. Real heroes don’t wear capes. They work in America’s schools.  

Being courageous requires faith. It took faith to go back to work at Sandy Hook after the shooting. Nobody had the answers or knew what would come tomorrow but they just kept going. Every opportunity you have to create welcoming environments in our schools where parents and students feel connected counts.
Have faith that your hard work is having a profound impact on your students. Of the 15,000 personal letters I received after the shooting, only one stays at my bedside. It’s from my high school English teacher, Robert Buckley.  

But you can’t be courageous or step out on faith without a deep love for what you do.  

Parents are sending their precious children to you this fall. Some will come fully prepared, and others not. They will come fed and with empty bellies. They will come from intact homes and fractured ones. Love them all.  

When my son returned to school in January, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Imagine the difficulty in sending your surviving child into a classroom when you lost your baby in a school shooting. We sent him because we didn’t want him to be afraid.

We sent him because we wanted him to understand that while our lives would never be the same, our lives still needed to move forward. 

According to the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health, nearly half of America’s children will have suffered at least one childhood trauma before the age of 18. They need your love.  

A few weeks before the shooting, Ana Grace and I shared a special morning. Lunches were packed and clothes were picked out the night before, so we had extra time to snuggle. And while I lay in bed with my beautiful caramel princess, she sensed that I was distracted and asked, “What’s the matter, Mom?” I remember saying to her, “Nothing, baby. It’s just work.” She looked at me for a very long time with a thoughtful stare, then she told me, “Don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry, Mom.”  

As you begin this school year, remember Ana Grace. Walk with courage, with faith, and with love. And don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry.”  

This school year, pray for the teachers, the children and the parents. Keep everyone in your thoughts and may God protect them. Life and love are precious gifts; never take them for granted. 

6-year old Ana Grace will never get to read that letter, play with her classmates on the playground or be in a Christmas pagent. Her short life on this Earth came to a tragic end the week before Christmas when a gunman with nothing on his agenda but anger and hate came to her school and shot 26 people, of which 20 were her classmates and six teachers. There needs to be a civil and serious dialouge about guns and school violence. 20 kids will never know the experience of meeting new teachers and classmates, they’ll never get to trade lunches in the lunchrooms, go to recess or fingerpaint. A madman that pulled the trigger will never face justice because he chose to be a coward and take himself out of the picture.

While there are some of us that are saying that guns are bad, it’s not the gun that is the problem. It’s the person that pulls the trigger that is the problem. We need to work together to strenghten the laws that are on the books, not weaken them. The right to own a gun is not the issue. The issue is that there are those that do not deserve to have a weapon, due to a criminal record, mental instablity or a dishonest gun salesman that put money over lives and doesn’t do the background checks.

26 lives lost. Gone. Never to walk this Earth again. The best thing we as a community can do is to make sure our children are safe and if it means changing a law that benefits the living while making sure that law-abiding gun owners have their rights protected, then so be it. It’s not about taking away guns. It’s about keeping them out of the hands of those that don’t deserve or need them.

As children walk into their schools, whether they are public, private or parochial this Fall, let’s remember those that will not walk into a school because of gun violence, including those in Sandy Hook and hope they walk out of them better than we dropped them off in the morning, fed, educated, loved.

And safe.