Appeal focuses on Newtown officials' actions before shooting

HARTFORD — A Connecticut appeals court heard arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit alleging Sandy Hook Elementary School officials failed to order a lockdown that could have saved lives before a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators in 2012.

The parents of two children killed at the Newtown school are appealing the dismissal of their lawsuit by a trial court judge, who ruled last year that school officials were immune from being sued and security protocols were discretionary.

The parents of Jesse Lewis and Noah Pozner are seeking undisclosed damages and hope the case prompts school officials to follow security procedures during future emergencies. Three judges of the Appellate Court, the state's second-highest court, heard arguments Wednesday.

"Children will never be safe in public schools unless the towns can be held accountable when they entirely fail our children by either not having, not implementing or not attempting to prevent imminent harm to our most precious gifts," said Donald Papcsy, a lawyer for the parents.

Charles DeLuca, a lawyer for the town of Newtown and its school district, has said the shooter, Adam Lanza, was solely responsible for the killings and there is no evidence school officials were at fault in any way.

The lawsuit alleges school Principal Dawn Hochsprung and other officials failed to order a "code blue" lockdown over the intercom, as was directed by security protocols, after hearing the 20-year-old Lanza shoot out the locked glass entrance of the school on the morning of Dec. 14, 2012. Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach were killed and another staff member was wounded when they confronted Lanza in the hallway, authorities said.

If a lockdown had been ordered, the lawsuit says, teachers in the two classrooms where the children were killed may have had time to lock their doors and prevent Lanza from entering.

Lanza killed his mother at their Newtown home before going to the school, where he killed himself as police arrived. The motive remains unclear. Connecticut's child advocate said Lanza's severe and deteriorating mental health problems, his preoccupation with violence and access to his mother's legal weapons "proved a recipe for mass murder."

 

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