Sandy Hook mother works with Carson schools staff

Carly Posey, mother of two Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting survivors, gives a presentation Aug. 2. 2023 to Carson City School District administrators at Carson High School.

Carly Posey, mother of two Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting survivors, gives a presentation Aug. 2. 2023 to Carson City School District administrators at Carson High School.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

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Carson City School District’s annual emergency training Aug. 2 sharpened district employees’ awareness for safe campuses as Carly Posey, mother of two Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting survivors, detailed how better measures can help save students’ lives.

The daylong session is for Carson City’s top-level and site administrators. District risk manager Ann Cyr said it is important for officials to refresh their skills on parent reunification in case of an emergency and work with local responders and establish incident command. This year, Cyr invited Posey to discuss why schools should prioritize and implement safety protocols.

“I’m just at the point now where I feel like I’ve kind of lost patience,” Posey told Carson City’s administrators. “If we can’t have our community feel like they can send our kids to school and be safe, we’ve lost too much, I think.

“We have to talk about safety all of the time and it has to be in the culture of our schools.”

Posey, mission director for the I Love U Guys Foundation, has been speaking around the country since joining the nonprofit in 2018.

In 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Conn. Posey spoke of her family’s move from California to Newtown, the harrowing day on Dec. 14, 2012, and packing up immediately to leave what happened behind. At the time, Amyla, a fourth-grader, and Reichen, a first-grader, were in their classrooms. With twin fifth-graders attending a different Newtown campus to think about as well, Posey said the insights she gained — from the first communications about the incident to her children’s processing the event to learning how the school’s procedures worked about school safety — were eye-opening.

“It’s a bigger message than just recovering from a school shooting,” Posey told the Appeal. “We have these things that happen in our lives all the time. So if we don’t do a good job at helping our kids especially who experience hard things on a daily basis, we’re going to be in this cycle of trauma all the time, and we’re never going to come out of it.”

Posey encouraged administrators to hold drills for an all-hazards approach and at inconvenient times and in different combinations that might include a lockdown along with an evacuation.

“Kids want us adults telling them what they should be doing in an emergency,” she said. “We can’t be scared to have these conversations with our kids because they want to know from us that we’re doing something and give them advice on what they should be doing.”

Posey told the Appeal she would like to find peace and help prevent another incident in other schools by sharing her story as “one little piece” in the bigger picture.

“Personally, it’s healing for me to be able to talk through it and for people that are invested in school safety and that are on the ground floor doing school safety every day,” she said. “To be able to talk to them is an honor, honestly. That’s how I look at it. They’re the ones that have to implement it.”

Cyr said Posey’s story speaks to the need for persistence in making sure schools are keeping safety top of mind.

“We have to keep this in front of people all year long and conduct those drills and stay on it,” Cyr said. “We have had a reunification plan for six years now and we’ve done some tabletop exercises but we’re prepared at this point to conduct a more active exercise involved with some more agencies.”

I Love U Guys Foundation instructor Donna Dougherty led Carson City administrators in the core concepts for reunification and its Standard Response Protocol, its operational safety plan to help educators in emergencies or incidents. These can include tactical responses from law enforcement.

I Love U Guys was established by the family of Emily Keyes in September 2006 after a gunman entered Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo., held seven girls hostage and eventually killed Keyes. While she was being held, Keyes texted her mother and father, “I love u guys.”

Dougherty is retired after 32 years in education as a teacher, administrator and a safety director. She said one concept most districts need to refine is reunification with students after an incident or emergency.

“I think Carson City is way ahead of the game because a lot of school districts have not gone through the aftermath and what happens next and ‘how do we do a reunification and what is that going to look like?’” Dougherty said. “I think we have seen an improvement over the past few years.”

Carson Middle School Principal Amy Robinson was one of the administrators attending Wednesday’s training.

“Just putting this in the forefront in our minds to have a plan in place so that we can, God forbid, it happens, we can address it and handle it to keep everybody safe and get them back safely with the parents, Robinson said, adding Posey’s story was heart-wrenching.

“We kind of think of about it from the school side of things, but we want to remember that the parents are on the other side of that worried about their children and how do we get them back together and let them know everything’s OK,” she said.


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