Students honor Conn. victims

By Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat December 20, 2012 02:14 pm

Sonora High students and staff members wore Sandy Hook Elementary colors Wednesday, a small gesture of remembrance for those killed in the Dec. 14 shooting tragedy. 

After debating the most appropriate way to honor the victims, students in Sonora High’s leadership class decided that wearing green and white was a subtle but powerful act. 

 

“I’ve seen a lot more green and white today than I expected to,” said Cody Hansten, Sonora High’s student body president.

Hansten, who has a younger brother at Sonora Elementary, found out about the Sandy Hook shooting on Twitter. 

“It’s one of those things that makes you feel unsettled, even though it’s thousands of miles away,” he said. “When there’s something that directly affects school, it’s worth talking about.” 

Students placed a large white banner in Sonora High’s courtyard “in memory of the students and teachers of Sandy Hook,” with a cartoon heart drawn after the words. 

Sonora High Principal Todd Dearden said students have been affected by the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 20 first-graders. 

“They’re nervous,” Dearden said of the Sonora High students. “They’re not walking around upset, but they’re just thinking about it. They’re pensive.” 

On the evening of Dec. 14, before a Sonora High basketball game versus Riverbank High School, the teenagers observed a moment of silence — what Dearden called a rare occurrence. 

“You could have heard a pin drop,” he said. 

Bret Harte High students observed their own moment of silence on Monday, and several other schools have done the same. 

Elementary schools are trying to shield their younger students from the news as much as possible. For example, counseling is available to students at Sonora Elementary School, but a discussion of the tragedy hasn’t been built into the school day. 

A desire to protect small children from the most disturbing elements of the Sandy Hook story kept Sonora High students from reaching out to their elementary school peers.

“We had a class discussion about what we could do to support our first-graders in Sonora,” Dearden said. “We couldn’t think of anything that wouldn’t just make it worse.”

“But the natural reaction of teenagers is to wrap their arms around those who, frankly, represent (the victims),” Dearden said. “And that’s to be commended.” 

Final exams have taken over for Summerville High School and Calaveras High School students, but the shooting has still been a topic of discussion.

Some teachers and school administrators have been wondering what they would have done in a situation like the one that unfolded at Sandy Hook.

“You lose sleep at night over things like that,” said Bret Harte Union High School District Superintendent and Principal Mike Chimente. “Would I have done the same thing that their principal did? Yes.”

Calaveras High School Principal Mike Merrill said he talked about the tragedy at a staff meeting.

“I wanted to make sure, number one, that the staff’s okay,” he said. “We need to be strong for our kids. We have to be prepared at all costs for anything that might happen.”

This is a hard time of year, anyway,” Merrill continued. “For a lot of our kids, their families are struggling.” 

Summerville High School administrators have been reviewing new safety plans, according to Principal David Johnstone. 

“The kids understand why that flag’s at half staff,” Johnstone said. “Summerville sends their heart out to their families. We’re deeply saddened because of what happened.”