New school tragedy rekindles memories for former teacherWhen Lacey Scottum heard the news that a mass killing had occurred inside a Connecticut school on Friday, a knowing chill went down her spine. The tragedy had an all-to-familiar ring to it.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
When Lacey Scottum heard the news that a mass killing had occurred inside a Connecticut school on Friday, a knowing chill went down her spine. The tragedy had an all-to-familiar ring to it.
Seven years ago, Scottum was a teacher at the Red Lake, Minn. school where five students, one teacher and an unarmed security guard were killed in a shooting incident. Now living in the Town of Farmington, Scottum said she was brought to tears when she heard the recent news accounts.
“It kind of brings you right back to that situation you lived through,” she said. “It’s the kind of pain that is always with you, and every time there is a tragedy like this you go through all the emotions again.”
Scottum, a St. Croix Falls High School graduate, said the circumstance surrounding the Newtown, Conn. shootings were eerily similar to her painful memories. The Red Lake shooter shot his grandfather and his grandfather’s girlfriend before heading to the school. The Red Lake shooter also committed suicide in the end.
Scottum was in another teacher’s classroom on March 21, 2005 when they both heard a sound they thought was someone banging on lockers. It turned out to be gun shots.
A short time later, a wounded student ran down the hallway alerting everyone that a shooter was in the school.
“You’re kind of in a daze and it took us a while to figure out what was going on,” she recalled.
Scottum and the other teacher gathered several hall monitors into their classroom and they all barricaded themselves in a closet.
Scottum said they were hidden for 45 minutes to an hour, unsure of what was going on in the school.
Scottum credited her faith in God for pulling her through the frightening moments.
“In the midst of it, God kept me calm,” she said. “I had an overwhelming sense of security and peace. I never felt extremely fearful.”
Eventually everyone in the school was given the all-clear, and Scottum and the others left the closet.
“It was just chaos after that,” she recalled. “Everyone was crying and nobody knew what was going on.”
In the days that followed, Scottum said the community pulled together to share their grief. It took about a month before the school reopened, and even then little was done in terms of education.
“We didn’t teach much,” she recalled. “We just tried to help the students process what they’d been through.”
In the months and years that followed the ordeal, Scottum said she struggled with anxiety. She often had a difficult time going into school buildings.
“Eventually that kind of goes away and you move on,” she said. “But it doesn’t ever really go away.”
Hearing about any similar tragedies will trigger those feelings now, she said. The Newtown incident was particularly troubling, Scottum added, because she has young kids of her own – ages 7 and 10.
“I know that my faith gives me the hope that I need,” she said. “I know that God is my healer and He will help me through it. Without my faith, I don’t know how I would have had any healing.”
The New Richmond School District sent out a letter to parents Monday, Dec. 17, addressing the Connecticut tragedy and what it means for local schools.
Jeff Moberg, director of human resources, assured district residents that the local schools take student safety very seriously.
He said the district has specific procedures in place in case of emergencies and staff members practice and discuss those plans on a regular basis. He noted that the district’s procedures are coordinated closely with local law enforcement and that the coordinated plan will again be reviewed in the coming days.
Moberg urged parents to maintain their normal routine and talk to their children if the subject of the shootings comes up. He said the district will be available if students need extra help dealing with the tragedy.
“Our schools will also be diligent in monitoring students and providing the appropriate resources and assistance to those students experiencing difficulty during this tragic time,” he wrote.
Moberg also offered families a link to resources that would help parents determine how to talk with their kids about the events of last week.