Active Newton community member Lillian Davis Bittman spoke to students during seminar about her experience of the Sandy Hook shooting. Bittman had been a core member to the Sandy Hook community by having her kids go to school there, by running the Sandy Hook newspaper, and by serving on the school board. For her, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School hit home. Bittman wanted to speak to high school students in order to show that this event could happen anywhere and that changes needed to be made.
“It’s real important that, I believe that high schoolers across the nation have this tragedy brought home to them so that they can help their world not have this happen again,” Bittman said.
Bittman coming all the way to Prairie Village from Connecticut was not just a coincidence. She grew up in the area going to SM South and was helping her mother return home after an injury. IB coordinator, Rebecca Murphy, who had been classmates at South with Bittman, asked Bittman to come talk to students about her experience. Murphy invited IB students, NHS students and journalism students to this presentation in the library.
Bittman talked about the actual shooting and how the events played out and also about the role of the media and the misinformation that was given out during the chaos. She then went on to talk about the Sandy Promise. The Sandy Promise pledges to make what happened at Sandy Hook to make an impact and fuel others to start taking steps toward change. A few of the issues that Bittman urges people to talk about are school safety, mental illness and gun control. She explicitly said that this promise is not trying to press one side or the other, but instead is trying to get people to sit down and talk about potential options to increase safety for kids. Bittman believes the students in high school can play a big role in creating change.
“Whatever the solutions are I want them engaged on it. In this particular case, understanding what happened at Sandy Hook on a personal perspective helps them internalize that and understand that it’s not just what you see in Washington but that these are real people grappling with pain and trying to really solve the problem not just by politics,” Bittman said.
Bittman hopes that her message rang clear and that the students took something to think about home with them. She had not thought about visiting more high schools but after her experience at East says it is out on the table.
“I talked about stepping up when you know you can solve the problem. That’s also understanding your own skillset and I know that i’m good in front of a crowd and I know that i’m good with kids so this might be how I help but we will have to see how this goes,” Bittman said.
To watch Bittman’s full presentation click on the video bellow.