Connecticut shooting affects local teachers and students

(WTVR) – The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut gripped the nation on Friday.

A lone gunman opened fire killing 20 students right inside their elementary school.  Most of them were between the ages of six and seven.

“I have 17 little babies in my kindergarten class, and just to think if anything happened to them,” Lola McDowell, a Woodville Elementary kindergarten teacher, said.   “I just would not be anymore good.”

The shooting rampage in Connecticut hit Lola McDowell especially hard.

As a Richmond kindergarten teacher, McDowell watched the horror unfold on TV and thought about the situation they deal with here.

“When we have lockdowns or anything like that, I tell my kids get down on the floor,” McDowell said.  “We lock our doors and don’t move,” the teacher added.  “Let’s be quiet and they listen to me.”

“That’s always the number one concern, the safety of the children in your care,” Dr. Kitty Boitnett, a former elementary school teacher and President of the Virginia Education Association, said.

Dr. Kitty Boitnett spent 37 years in the classroom.

“We became very security conscious,” Boitnett said.

While working at Henrico County schools, Boitnett helped prepare a crisis response plan, which was right around the time of the D.C. Sniper shootings.

“In Henrico, a lot of the schools are campus style schools where they’re spread out over a large area,” Boitnett explained.

“It’s not a matter of just getting into the front office and then having access to all of the other classrooms,” Boitnett said.  “You can come in from the back and not ever even be seen by the people up in the front office.”

Boitnett said any security plan needs to be sensitive to the students, but detailed for teachers and staff.

“How does that affect the entire school campus?” Boitnett asked.  “What sorts of announcements would need to be made?” the former elementary school teacher said.  “What would be the procedure?”

Teachers say there’s no easy procedure or formula to do their jobs, especially when something so terrible happens at school.

“We are their parents.  We are their mother, their father, their own grandmothers.  They’re whatever family members.  We are, and most of the parents will say that,” McDowell said.