The state’s Child Advocate petitioned a court Friday to demand Newtown public schools release Adam Lanza’s educational records for a panel investigation into his slaying of 20 children.
In January, the Child Advocate’s office, as part of the Child Fatality Review Panel, began its own investigation into the deaths of the 20 children killed during the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The panel customarily reviews the deaths of children in the state when they occur out-of-home or are unexplained.
The panel by law is expected “to determine whether there were contributing risk factors that could be impacted by systemic interventions,” according to its website. “Identified risk factors are then incorporated into proposed prevention initiatives designed to decrease the incidence of such deaths.”
As outlined in statute, the goal of the child fatality review process is to “facilitate development of prevention strategies to address identified trends and patterns of risk and to improve coordination of services for children and families in the state”
As part of the investigation, under former Child Advocate Jamey Bell (Sarah Healy Eagan doesn’t take over as Child Advocate until Sept. 12), the office subpoenaed the school records of Lanza, the 20-year-old man who killed 20 first graders and six educators at the elementary school as well as his mother. Lanza had earlier attended public schools in Newtown.
Although the subpoena dates back to March, Newtown’s school system has yet to release the records. In a lawsuit filed Friday in Hartford Superior Court, the Office of the Child Advocate asks the court to order John R. Reed, Newtown’s interim superintendent of schools, to comply with the subpoena.
The Child Advocate is seeking Lanza’s psychological reports and evaluations, report cards, attendance records, nursing reports and notes, social work records, disciplinary records, education plans, and any communications with his family.
It is unclear why the school system has not turned over the records. An attorney for Newtown recently told CTNewsJunkie that the town has received “several” requests for records pertaining to the December shooting, but was unable to immediately provide more specifics. There’s no central clearinghouse for the requests, which have been made through various local and state offices.
The State Police also have received requests for records having to do with the shooting. Spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said Thursday that the department has handled around 20 information requests on the incident since December, but most have come from reporters.
“There’s been about 20 to 22 requests for all types of different things, whether its for the report or other types of information,” he said. “Usually it’s been from members of the media.”
Vance said the agency has sent letters declining to provide the information citing the ongoing investigation into the shooting. He said inquiries into the status of the investigation have been more frequent.
“Calls constantly come in from media across the country,” he said.
Earlier the month, Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky III, who is in charge of the police investigation into the Sandy Hook shooting, said he expects to issue the long-awaited report in the fall. The report was expected to be released this summer, but the deadline continues to be pushed back.
“The scale of the investigation is such that even a fall release of the State’s Attorney’s report is well within what would be expected from this type of investigation,” an Aug. 6 statement from Sedensky’s office reads.
A member of the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office is part of the 14-member Child Fatality Review Panel and attended the Jan. 30 meeting when the panel voted to undertake the investigation that led to the subpoena for Lanza’s school records.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recently said the state’s attorney’s office needs enough independence to get its investigation done, but he’s also keenly aware that December is around the corner and it would be difficult to have the report released close to the anniversary of the shooting.
“We understand that the world is waiting for this report, and we want it done as quickly as possible,” Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba said in a statement earlier this month. “We also want it done right. Making sure the state’s attorney’s office has the independence it needs to do the job is critical, and we are trying to strike the right balance.”
The Child Fatality Review Panel reported in January that over the past 12 years between Jan. 1, 2001 and Dec. 31, 2012, 94 children, including the 20 slain at Sandy Hook, died from gunshot wounds. During that same period 924 children were injured by guns.