By Mary O’KEEFE
On Friday, as the news of the shooting in Newtown, Conn. was being released, it was almost impossible to believe. Adam Lanza, 20, walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and began shooting. By the time he took his own life, he had killed 20 students, 12 girls and eight boys ranging in ages from 6 to 7 years old, along with six adults who worked at the school. Before he went to the school he apparently shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza.
For many parents, thoughts immediately turned to their children and the schools they attend. The Glendale Unified School District, Glendale Police Dept. and Los Angeles County sheriffs from the CV Station all responded by going out to school sites in a show of extra support.
“We immediately sent support to each one of our school sites,” said Mary Boger, school board member.
“We had district administrators at all of our school sites,” said GUSD Superintendent Dick Sheehan.
In addition to administrative support, Sheehan contacted Glendale police and the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station and requested support from each agency.
“We are extremely grateful to Glendale police and sheriffs for their support,” Boger added.
There were no signs of any disturbances at local schools, and the support teams that were sent by the district were to help students and staff as they coped with the tragic school shooting.
Crescenta Valley High School and Rosemont Middle School share a school resource officer, Deputy Scott Shinagawa. After the news of the shooting, the sheriff’s station had several patrol units go to the schools within Crescenta Valley. GPD responded the same although they do not have an SRO assigned to any of the elementary schools that fall in their region.
“I assigned a community officer to be responsible for each of the schools [within far north Glendale], “ said Lt. Scott Bickle, North Area Command.
Those officers went to every school to review the security procedures with each school’s staff and to offer a show of support.
In the days following the Connecticut shooting, GPS and LASD continued their efforts in reviewing safety procedures and working with school staff.
“We had safety plans in place,” said Lt. Angela Shepard, LASD, CV Station.
Shepard added that Shinagawa and Dep. Eric Matejka, who is the liaison with the city of La Cañada Flintridge, had worked with the schools and have an “active shooter” plan in place.
In fact, both LASD and GPD train for this type of active shooter scenario. LASD recently conducted a training session at Rosemont Middle School, and GPD conducted an active shooting training at the Glendale Galleria. Glendale police are planning their next training at Glendale Community College.
“We go over our safety procedures [school lock down] on a regular basis but any time we are dealt with a tragedy we [use that] time to review,” Sheehan said.
Boger and Sheehan spoke of the shock that this type of tragedy brings and how it is important to show support to students, to let them know that they are not alone.
GUSD has put information on its website with links to sites that can help guide parents on how to deal with their children concerning tragedies. Visit www.gusd.net for those links.
“Be honest with your child,” Sheehan suggested.
Community reaction reached beyond school walls. Churches opened their doors for those who needed solace and meditation. On Saturday night, St. George’s Episcopal Church in La Cañada and St. Luke’s of the Mountains in La Crescenta joined for a prayer vigil. Rev. Amy Pringle of St. George’s and Bryan Jones, St. Luke’s vicar, organized the vigil.
About 30 people attended the service which began in the St. George chapel then a procession was led to the front of the church where a bell tolled for each victim of the tragedy. The candlelight procession then continued to the church’s preschool play yard where candles were placed in the sand among the toys.
Tonight a local mother’s candlelight vigil will be held at the corner of Honolulu Avenue and Ocean View Boulevard at 6:30 p.m. The vigil is in support of families in Connecticut. A ceremony with song and prayer will be offered. Those who would like to attend are asked to bring candles – a tea light in a mason jar has been recommended. Children are asked to bring flashlights or battery operated candles.
Where to Find Help
By Mary O’KEEFE
The holidays can be a joyous time with family and friends but for some it can be a time of darkness and depression.
The Glendale police have seen an increase in suicides and attempted suicides this holiday season. Other agencies have reported an increase in those who are suffering from depression. Add to this the recent tragic shooting in Connecticut and the feelings of stress and helplessness grow.
It is important to remember that adults are not the only ones that may be feeling the pressures of the holidays. Children are just as susceptible.
“The truth is the holidays in general can [be difficult for some],” said John Garcia, Glendale Unified School District deputy superintendent.
Students have just completed final testing at school. This is a time of constant studying and, for some, pressure to achieve success is increased.
“[The pressure] is certainly true in schools,” Garcia said.
Principal Michele Doll will be releasing a letter online to Crescenta Valley High School families, as well as making PhoneConnect calls sharing information on where students can go over the holidays if they need help. She will also include information on what local organizations are open for students.
The Fire House youth center at 2563 Foothill Blvd. will be open for high school students on New Year’s Eve from 8 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 1 a.m. on Jan. 1.
GUSD has information on its website for anyone in need of help. Go to www.gusd.net. Another website is www.suicideispreventable.org; their contact number is (800) 273-8255.
Lt. Scott Bickle, GPD, advises anyone in crisis or who is concerned about another’s safety to call law enforcement directly.
“If you are concerned, just call us,” he said.
The community officers’ program was established to give residents a sense of familiarity with officers and for officers to get to know those they serve. Bickle said anyone who has concerns about someone or is concerned someone may become violent to others or themselves can contact law enforcement and community officers will respond.
Contact the Glendale Police Dept. at (818) 548-4911; for Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station, call (818) 248-3464.