HARTFORD, Conn. (CN) — A jury should decide whether administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who were gunned down after leaving a conference room, failed to follow their own protocols and were negligent, attorneys representing two parents of deceased first-graders told a Connecticut appeals court Wednesday.
A Connecticut Appellate Court panel heard arguments about whether the educators, as “agents of the town,” were responsible for the deaths of 20 first-graders because they failed to stay in a conference room to use the intercom system to call a “Code Blue.”
Senior Appellate Judge Thomas Bishop asked why the town of Newtown and the Newtown Board of Education are the only named defendants in the case.
“They are agents of the municipality,” responded Devin Janosov, an attorney for the parents of the late Jesse Lewis and Noah Pozner.
Attorney Donald Papcsy, who also represents the parents, said the educators should have remained hidden in the conference room when they heard the gunman shoot his way through the front window with eight bullets from an AR-15. They had an intercom system they could have used to alert the school.
Charles DeLuca, with Ryan, Ryan, & DeLuca, representing the town, said witnesses differed about whether the noises they heard that day were gunshots, and that it’s impossible to know what Principal Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist, were thinking, because they were the first two victims.
They ran into the hallway after hearing the 20-year-old Adam Lanza shoot out the locked glass entrance of the school on the morning of Dec. 14, 2012.
“We’ll never know what they thought they heard,” DeLuca said.
The school administrators heard the gunshots, ran out into the hallway and were immediately killed. The entire massacre lasted 264 seconds before the gunman took his own life.
DeLuca said school administrators have discretion in emergency situations and the guidelines can’t account for every situation.
“All we have are sounds in a lobby. The principal didn’t know what they were,” DeLuca said.
Appellate Judge Douglas Lavine pointed out that witnesses differed on what they heard that day.
However, Papscy argued that running out into the hallway was not part of any protocol the school and town had in place.
“I think any reasonable person would know an AR-15 being fired is a reasonable threat,” Papscy said.
He said a jury should get to decide whether town guidelines and the actions that were taken might have prevented the students from harm. He wants the panel to send the case back to a lower court for a jury trial.
Neil Heslin, the father of Jesse Lewis, was in court for the arguments Wednesday. He said he’s still dealing with the loss of his son every day.
“But there was a procedure and a protocol that wasn’t followed,” Heslin said after the arguments.
He declined to speculate on whether calling a “Code Blue” might have saved his son’s life, but said, “It would have notified everyone in the school.”
A lower court judge ruled last year that school officials were immune from being sued and that security protocols were discretionary.
It could take months for the appellate court to issue its decision.