Two families of the 20 first-graders who were killed in the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, have filed a lawsuit against the school board and town, alleging inadequate security at the building where the gunman killed their children.
The parents of Jesse Lewis and Noah Pozner took the legal action on behalf of their children’s estates. Among the allegations are that the school implemented security policies and procedures that teachers weren’t able to follow when a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators in the small New England community on Dec. 14, 2012. In one of the two targeted classrooms, for example, substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau couldn’t lock the door because she didn’t have a key. The parents also question the lack of security in the parking lot and claim the school was negligent for not having bulletproof glass in front windows and doors.
“We are hopeful that the Town of Newtown’s elected and hired representatives will work with these families, who have already suffered, and continue to suffer, unimaginable loss, to help resolve this matter in the most efficient and constructive way possible,” attorney Donald Papcsy of Papcsy Janosov Roche Trial Lawyers wrote in a statement to msnbc. Papcsy is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “As residents of the town, we all either have, or are going to have, students in our Sandy Hook schools, and we promote the idea of learning from the past and protecting our children in the future.”
Town attorney David Grogins confirmed to msnbc the lawsuit was filed against Newtown and the Newtown Board of Education last Friday on behalf of the two children. He said the town didn’t have additional comment.
The Hartford Courant reported the news on Monday night. The lawsuit was given to a state marshal on Dec. 14, the last day state statutes allowed for legal action to be taken against the community. The legal motion is expected to be filed soon in state superior court in Danbury, Connecticut.
Last June, two Newtown parents expressed to the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission how the local town agencies failed their families when it provided initial assistance after the shooting. The parents of children Josephine Gay and Benjamin Wheeler cited delays in the notification of direct contact to the superintendent’s office and information about a trauma team that had been established to assist surviving relatives during the recovery process. They said that state agencies provided a better level of initial and long-term assistance for Newtown residents.
Ten families that were affected by the mass shooting, including those of Lewis and Pozner, filed a lawsuit last month against Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the firearm used by the gunman. The families are working with a firm in nearby Bridgeport, Connecticut, to take civil action against the North Carolina-based company for making, distributing, and selling the AR-15 rifle, which the gunman used to kill 26 people in less than five minutes at the elementary school. The action, filed the day after the two-year mark of the tragedy, alleges negligence and wrongful death. The Newtown tragedy was the second-deadliest school shooting in American history, after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people.
Also in December, at least a dozen families of the victims filed notices of wrongful death claims on behalf of their children. Their action — opening an “estate” in the children’s names — allows family members to become representatives on behalf of the individuals who died. The move, however, does not indicate the relatives ultimately will file a lawsuit in superior court.
Several grassroots groups, including Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, have pushed for Congress to close the loophole in the federal system that allows Americans to buy firearms online and at gun shows without first passing a background check. Almost two years ago in April 2013, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have expanded background checks.