Newtown Parent: Better Communication Was Needed

Father says shooting victims were left out of the yearbook.

A parent of one of the 20 first-graders killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School says communication between Newtown officials and local families broke down at points in the shooting's aftermath.

One example of that was leaving the victims of the school shooting out of the yearbook.

David Wheeler lost his son, Benjamin, in the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre. He told a state commission reviewing the school shooting on Friday via Skype that if another tragedy happens, there needs to be a better flow of information.

"When your life is changed in this way and you experience this kind of loss, you are starving for information," Wheeler told the committee.

He said some examples of the poor communication included receiving information late about available counseling services and school officials appearing to make decisions about the contents of the school yearbook without input from parents.

When he told the committee about the fourth-grade yearbook, he said "it was immediately apparent that the decision had been made not to include any photographs of the teachers or the staff lost in the shooting.”

That yearbook did not include any from September through December, he said. A trauma team made the decision without input from any of the victims' families, let alone those with other children in the school, he said. 

"It was as if the first three months of the school year and the people who were lost, as it was reflected in that yearbook, never existed,” Wheeler said.

Although he was giving a critique, Wheeler made it clear that he did not want to come across as critical. 

“I certainly don’t blame them, I mean, we’re all humans, we have different reactions to this kind of thing. It’s understandable, but it’s not desirable,” he said.

Newtown officials didn't immediately return messages from the Associated Press on Friday.

The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is working on recommendations on school safety, mental health and gun violence prevention.

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