(CN) – Throwing out a heart-wrenching suit from the parents of murdered first-graders, a Connecticut judge ruled Tuesday that Newtown and its Board of Education cannot be held liable for the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Emergencies, by their very nature, are sudden and often rapidly evolving events, and a response can never be one hundred percent scripted and directed and is a significant reason why police officers have been afforded broad discretion,” Superior Court Judge Robin Wilson wrote.
“To say that the faculty and staff of the school were to act in a prescribed manner in responding to an emergency situation would likewise be illogical and in direct contradiction to the very purpose of governmental immunity: allowing for the exercise of judgment without the fear of second-guessing,” the 29-page opinion continues.
Earning the distinction at the time as America’s deadliest school shooting, the death toll at Sandy Hook included 20 children between 6 and 7 years old, as well as six adult staff members.
In 2015, the parents of two of those children, Jesse Lewis and Noah Ponzer, accused Newtown and school district of leaving their children unprotected.
Wilson’s dismissal of their claims spurred outrage Tuesday from Donald Papcsy, an attorney for the parents with the firm Papcsy Janosov Roche.
“This ruling (which every parent should read) should serve as NOTICE to all parents of young boys and girls: Our children are not safe in public schools,” Papcsy said in a statement (parentheses in original).
“From our neighbors in Sandy Hook, to the young men and women of Parkland, the legislatures and judicial systems have decided for all of us that, even when the facts support a total breakdown of school security protocol, the ‘immunity’ laws are used as an excuse to prevent parents from holding them accountable,” Papcsy added.
Among other things, the families claimed in their lawsuit that the district failed to provide the school with doors that could be locked on the inside, train and supervise staff on lockdown procedures, or have a security guard patrol the school.
Judge Wilson found that the school district did not have such obligations under its “Lockdown—Code Blue” guidelines, which outline the options that “may” be necessary in the event of an emergency.
“A sensible reading of this language suggests that implementation of these guidelines requires discretion in two parts: judgment is initially exercised in determining whether the commencement of a lockdown is necessary, and judgment is exercised in examining the circumstances and determining how to issue the code blue order,” the opinion sates. “There is no language contained within the code blue guidelines that mandates that a lockdown be commenced and/or prescribes when a faculty or staff member should commence the same. Thus, the very act of commencing a lockdown pursuant to the code blue guidelines is of a discretionary nature.”
Papcsy vowed to lodge an appeal.
“We will continue to fight for this cause so that, someday, we can live in a world where we know our children are going to come home at the end of the school day,” he said.
The town’s attorney Charles Deluca, from the firm Ryan Ryan Deluca, celebrated the ruling.
“The court’s decision was thoughtful and well-reasoned, and we are pleased that Judge Wilson agreed with the arguments we put forth on behalf of the town and the Board of Education,” Deluca said.