In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, Connecticut school lawyers are fielding calls from school districts eager for a security checkup, and even from parents reconsidering an emotional health exam for a difficult child.
At the same time, the lawyer who helped draft much of Connecticut's law covering children with disabilities says the state's infrastructure for detecting and helping troubled kids is in bad shape underfunded and uncoordinated.
Thomas Mooney, of Shipman & Goodwin, whose 20-lawyer school law group is the largest in the state, is also the author of the leading treatise on Connecticut school law. His firm represents about 100 school boards statewide, and the topic uppermost in these clients' thoughts is schools' physical security.
"I think the first step will be a security review," Mooney said last week. "I think security firms are going to be very, very busy. I was just at a public meeting down in Stamford, and they were talking about at the board of finance -- funding a [school] security review. I'm afraid [Sandy Hook is] going to have a significant impact, relative to the way we do business."
Floyd Dugas, one of the eight lawyers in the school law group at Milford's Berchem, Moses & Devlin, spent much of last week in Newtown. His firm represents its school board. "There are a myriad of legal issues that come up after an incident of this nature," he said. "Some of them would be obvious to a school attorney, and some of them wouldn't be."
A national network of school lawyers had already organized a webinar to share the experience of lawyers who had handled the aftermath of school shootings in other parts of the country, he said.
The Newtown school system is creating a replica of the Sandy Hook elementary at a mothballed school in Monroe, six miles away. When school opens after the holidays, the pupils will find their old desks and classroom décor, along with state of the art security cameras, on-site police officers, and other protective measures, according to Newtown authorities.
But even the most thorough security review can't guarantee all future evil acts will be prevented, Mooney said.
"Any time when we're reminded of the importance of student safety, and the need to review, and to make sure that we're doing everything reasonably possible, then that's an invitation we should accept with enthusiasm. I don't think the outcome of [a statewide school security] review is going to result in a situation in which the events of [Dec. 14] could not have occurred."
He painted this scenario. "Kids are out on the playground. A guy drives by….." Mooney concluded: "There's evil in this world, and we're not going to be able to prevent all of it. We can only reduce those risks."