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NEWTOWN Sandy Hook teacher writes it’s wrong to arm educators

September 1, 2018

NEWTOWN - Fourth-grade teacher Abbey Clements had enough to do preparing for the first day of school without embroiling herself in the national debate about arming educators.

But Clements also knew that as a teacher who survived the worst crime in Connecticut history, her story could make a difference.

So Clements recounted the hell she lived through in 2012, when a gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook School, killing 20 first-graders and six educators, writing in Elle magazine last week that arming teachers is a dangerous idea.

“I would like to make something perfectly clear,” Clements writes. “[H]ad school employees been carrying guns at Sandy Hook School, it would not have made us or our students any safer.”

Clements’ Aug. 27 essay in Elle came four days after news reports that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was considering allowing school districts to use federal grants to arm teachers.

It was not the first time that the idea had been floated in the wake of the Valentine’s Day massacre of 17 students and staff at a Florida high school, nor was it the first time that Sandy Hook activists objected. In late February, during a White House listening session about school shootings, President Donald Trump suggested to students, parents and teachers that guns in schools would make everyone safer.

Nicole Hockley, a founder of Sandy Hook Promise who lost a son in the Sandy Hook massacre, told the president her organization would rather arm teachers with knowledge about how to prevent school violence.

Last week, Clements agreed.

“Instead of taking funds away from students who need it the most, let’s look at this problem we have with gun violence and figure out how to prevent it instead of just reacting to it,” Clements told The News-Times.

Clements said she was so incensed to learn that DeVos was considering using federal money to arm teachers that Clements overcame her apprehension about sharing her experience publicly and wrote the Elle piece.

“It is something that continues to be difficult for me because I am not a very vocal person,” Clements told The News-Times. “For me personally this is the way that I can take this horrible, heinous tragedy that happened to my beautiful school and my beautiful town, and try to make a change.”

In the Elle piece, Clements shares enough of her story from that day to put the reader in the building when the shooting started.

Clements had just come from a meeting with the school principal Dawn Hochsrpung, who was slain trying to stop the shooter.

Clements writes she’ll never forget “how fast shootings happen and how chaotic and confusing they are.”

“It’s incredibly difficult to determine who is shooting or where the gunfire is coming from,” Clements writes, adding she was so consumed with calming and corralling the terrified children that it would be “ludicrous” to imagine doing anything else. “I could not fathom that it was all coming from one person.”

Her hope in writing the piece, she said, is to give policy makers a true picture of what a classroom is like during a school shooting.

“The people discussing this insane concept of arming teachers aren’t in the schools and don’t understand what it is really like,” she told Hearst Connecticut Media.

rryser@newstimes.com 203-731-3342

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