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Communications Lessons From Sandy Hook. Oregon School Public Relations Association. A Quiz… Fact or Fiction. The shooter was 24 year old Ryan Lanza The Mother of the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary school taught there at one time

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communications lessons from sandy hook

Communications Lessons From Sandy Hook

Oregon School Public Relations Association

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

a quiz fact or fiction
A Quiz… Fact or Fiction
  • The shooter was 24 year old Ryan Lanza
  • The Mother of the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary school taught there at one time
  • A man was arrested outside of Sandy Hook elementary school on the morning of the shooting
  • The school asked for teddy bears to comfort their students
  • The community needed volunteers, especially grief counselors to come to Newtown to help

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

  • 26 people killed in a small community
  • Some parents are city employees – everyone knew someone
  • Media and visitors shuts down the town. Gridlock
  • President comes to visit… so does Anderson Cooper and Dr. Phil
  • 21 Funerals in town in about a week
  • Massive law enforcement effort
  • Multiple Federal agencies respond
  • Businesses impacted
  • Volunteers… some invited … some not
  • $7.5 Million donated to families within 4 weeks
  • 60,000 Teddy Bears
  • Cascading Events… School leadership a victim, snow, flu, conspiracy theory

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

school issues shooting at a school not a school shooting
School Issues- Shooting at a school, not a school shooting
  • Key Leaders Victims
  • Plans in place… worked well for the most part
  • Rebuild? Tear it down?
  • Relocate and Reopen New Sandy Hook Elementary
  • Costs
  • Personnel Decisions
    • Superintendent
    • Sandy Hook Principal
  • Neighboring schools in lock down
  • Non Traditional Support Methods… Comfort Dogs, horses and pigs
  • Trigger Events for Kids – scraping chairs
  • Staff – Parking Lot Phone Call Support

TYPICAL Reactions: Scapegoat, Staff turn over, Test Scores, Vocabulary… 12-14, Anniversaries

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

media communications issues
Media/Communications Issues
  • MSN Story giving address of school “send a sympathy card”
  • MSN Story asking for ‘Volunteers, especially Grief Counselors, please call…
  • Funeral Home Visit
  • Police information was wrong in the beginning
  • Newtown Bee provided Media Training to impacted First Responders
  • Connecticut Association of Funeral Directors… 18 volunteer Funeral Directors to help and a Media Consultant

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

we are not objective
We are NOT objective
  • An Event Impacts You….
  • Judgment May Be Impaired
  • School System Isn’t Alone… Use Your Resources
  • PIO/Communications Job During a Major Crisis May be Different Than Day to Day

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]


School Superintendent




Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

take aways
Take Aways
  • Coordination begins in chaos
  • It’s about relationships
  • Understand we are in this for the long haul
  • Spokesperson may change but message should be consistent
  • Perception IS reality

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]