Secretary of Education Arne Duncan thanks the extraordinary educators, school leaders, and school staff who protected children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. (December 18, 2012)
At this time of unbearable grief over the senseless slaughter of 20 first-graders and six school staff members, I want to take a moment to thank the extraordinary educators, school leaders, and school staff who protected children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Words cannot do justice to the courage of Dawn Hochsprung, Mary Sherlach, Lauren Rousseau, Victoria Soto, Anne Marie Murphy, and Rachel D'Avino. They made the ultimate sacrifice, literally laying down their lives to protect the children they taught and cared for.
If it was not for the quick and courageous response of other teachers and staff, even more children and adults might have died.
Across the nation, the care and concern that teachers show for children is second only to the love of a parent. No profession is more deserving of our respect.
We ask so much of our teachers, principals, and school staff. But no one could possibly ask for this kind of sacrifice.
Our schools should and must be one of the safest places in society.
Now it is time for another, quieter heroism in our schools - the courage to move forward, to continue to teach and lead children, and to take smart precautions to minimize the risk of future tragedies.
The challenge after Sandy Hook of trying to explain the inexplicable to young children is very real.
But teachers, principals, and school staff are also feeling fragile. They want to be sure kids get the mental health services they need to prevent future tragedies. Like parents, teachers and school leaders are struggling to explain the shootings to their students. Some teachers may be nervous for their own safety. None of this is easy.
So I am extraordinarily grateful to our nation's teachers, school staff members, principals, and district leaders for the courage and caring they showed in the first few days back to school after the shootings. It is you who have done the hard work of caring for students. It is you who have fostered a sense of normalcy and safety, and let students express their concerns and emotions and fears.
As President Obama said at the prayer vigil in Newtown, "if there is even one step we can take to save another child or another parent, or another town, then surely we have an obligation to try."
We will try. Working together - with your leadership, your courage, and your commitment - we will do everything in our power to keep schools as safe havens where educators can fulfill their mission in life - to teach and help raise our children.
Please know that your work on behalf of our children is deeply valued. And please know that - like the families of Newtown coping with their losses - you, too, are not alone.