Sandy Hook Students Out of Class Until January
NEWTOWN, Conn. (CNN) — Heartbreaking funerals continued in Newtown, Connecticut on Wednesday, as several more students and a beloved teacher are laid to rest.
They are among those killed when Adam Lanza shot his mother four times in the head before shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary, opening fire on staff and students no older than 7. Lanza then killed himself.
Victoria “Vicki” Soto, a first-grade teacher who tried to shield her students from bullets, was buried Wednesday.
A police honor guard saluted her casket as bagpipers played outside the Lordship Community Church in Stratford, Connecticut.
The church set up more than 100 chairs outside the building to accommodate the overflow of people paying their respects.
“You were an angel to those 19 children you protected, to the 19 families and the community,” Soto’s sister Jillian said at the service.
“She would not hesitate to think to save anyone else before herself, and especially children,” her mother Donna has said of Soto. “She loved them more than life, and she would definitely put herself in front of them any day.”
Soto, 27, wanted to be a teacher since she was 3 years old.
She “instinctively went into action when a monster came into her classroom and tried to protect the kids that she loved so much,” cousin James Wiltsie said. “We just want the public to know that Vicki was a hero.”
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan traveled to Newtown to pay his respects to the family of school principal Dawn Hochsprung, and “to hear from educators on how we can help,” he said on Twitter.
Hochsprung’s family had calling hours scheduled for Wednesday. Her funeral will be private on Thursday, outside of Connecticut.
Seven-year-old Daniel Barden’s burial was scheduled for Wednesday, as well.
His “fearless” pursuit of happiness earned him ripped jeans, his family said.
Taking after his musician dad, Daniel formed a band with his brother and sister, playing the drums.
“He embodied everything that is wholesome and innocent in the world,” Daniel’s family said.
Caroline Previdi’s relatives also were saying their final goodbyes Wednesday.
Even after her death, 6-year-old Caroline continued to touch the lives of others. A Facebook page called “RIP Caroline Previdi — Sandy Hook Massacre Victim” had more than 5,400 “likes” on Wednesday morning.
Charlotte Bacon was another 6-year-old whose life was cut short. Charlotte, a beaming bundle of energy under bright red curls, also had a burial scheduled for Wednesday.
Black hearses with caskets will continue driving though Newtown for days to come.
For Sandy Hook students, no school until January
Unlike students at other schools who returned Tuesday, Sandy Hook students are not expected to go back until January.
Their school is a crime scene. The current plan is for them to resume classes next year at the former Chalk Hill Middle School, eight miles away in neighboring Monroe, Newtown Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson said in a letter to parents.
“We need to tend to our teachers’ and students’ needs to feel comfortable after this trauma in this new place,” she wrote.
Teachers may call parents “to invite you to visit Chalk Hill with your child this week to walk around and see the classroom and get familiar with this new Sandy Hook home.”
At other schools, students went back to class with their sense of normalcy shattered. They were met by police, counselors and teachers, who all face a tremendous burden.
How do they explain to children what happened? How do they help make them feel safe?
David Schonfeld, a crisis counselor who gave a presentation to Newtown teachers about how to talk to students, said they have to meet children where they are.
“I told them that as far as I was concerned, there was really only one lesson plan that they needed to teach before they broke for the (holidays), and that was to make sure that the children knew that they were safe and that they cared about them and they were going to care for them,” he said.
The teachers’ union said classes would discuss the tragedy in an age-appropriate manner.
Authorities are still working to determine a motive for the shooting spree.
So far, they have been unable to retrieve data from a computer in Lanza’s home, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.
The gunman apparently smashed the computer and extensively damaged the hard drive, the official said, adding that the FBI is assisting Connecticut State Police.
Lanza’s mother was shot four times in the head while she slept in her bed, said Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver.
Adam Lanza killed himself with a shot to the front of his head from a handgun, the medical examiner said.
Toxicology tests are under way to determine whether Adam Lanza had taken medication.
Authorities have said the shooter took three of his mother’s weapons — two handguns and a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle — to the elementary school.
There are no records of any police incident calls to the Lanza home in the past, state police said Wednesday.
Attorney General Eric Holder had no comment on what the FBI has found in the investigation.
Shedding new light on the gunman
While Carver, the chief medical examiner, said he was told that Adam Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome, officials are working to determine whether that diagnosis was correct, and whether he may have had other diagnosable problems.
A former director of security for Newtown Public Schools shed new light Monday night on the gunman.
Richard Novia said Adam Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome, based on documents and conversations with Lanza’s mother.
Novia said that as part of his job, which he left in 2008, he would be informed of students who might pose problems to themselves or others.
He also said he received “intake information,” which he said “is common for any students troubled or impaired or with disabilities.” The idea was to keep track of and help students who may need it.
However, Novia said he never thought Lanza was a threat and certainly never thought he was capable of such violence.
Russ Hanoman, a friend of Lanza’s mother, previously told CNN that Lanza had Asperger’s and that he was “very withdrawn emotionally.”
CNN has not been able to independently confirm whether Lanza was diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s, a higher-functioning form of autism. Both are developmental disorders, not mental illnesses.
Many experts say neither Asperger’s syndrome nor autism can be blamed for the rampage.
“There is absolutely no evidence or any reliable research that suggests a linkage between autism and planned violence,” the Autism Society said in a statement.
“To imply or suggest that some linkage exists is wrong and is harmful to more than 1.5 million law-abiding, nonviolent and wonderful individuals who live with autism each day.”
Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist and autism expert at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, also said the gunman’s actions can’t be linked to autism spectrum disorders.
“Aggression and violence in the ASD population is reactive, not preplanned and deliberate,” he said.