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Sandy Hook Commission Releases Draft Of Its Recommendations

AP Photo/Jessica Hill

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission will present a full report to Malloy next month. Malloy formed the commission after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. For two years, they've been meeting regularly, discussing gun violence, mental health and school safety. They released a draft version of that final report on Thursday.

The report's 256 pages cover all three topics, and most of the recommendations have been thoroughly, and publicly, discussed by the commission over the past two years. When they started work, commission members said they wanted to keep both politics and questions of cost out of their minds.

"We aren't going to get hung up on some of these recommendations," said commission member Christopher Lyddy, a social worker and a former state representative for Newtown. "We really wanted to look at the systems of care, the mental health system, the educational system and school safety concerns, and really look at them through a lens that was not blurred by fiscal constraints."

The report suggests schools need to regularly update their security plans and designs to keep parents and teachers safe. For example, it recommends fitting all classrooms with doors that can be locked from the inside. But it also cautions against making schools look like prisons.

"Schools should really be developmentally appropriate," Lyddy said. "They should be safe, but they should also be places of continued and lifelong learning. And, therefore, they shouldn't be guarded in a way that would indicate anything other than that."

The report paints a more dire picture of mental health in Connecticut, similar to the one contained in the Office of the Child Advocate's reporting on the shooting from 2014. It says Connecticut's mental health care system is fragmented, without enough communication between teachers, doctors, psychiatrists and insurers. It recommends more community-focused mental health care, and it says schools need to pay more attention to students' social and emotional needs- for example, more work to combat bullying and drug and alcohol abuse. And it says big reforms are needed in the system under which schools develop personal learning plans for students with mental illness.

The commission doesn't expect the state to act immediately.

"Especially in this very difficult time for the budget, some of these things may not be done right away," said commission member Kathleen Flaherty. "But some of them may be able to be done, and don't necessarily have to be high-cost things."

Malloy presents his annual budget proposal on Feb. 18, and it's expected to contain at least one of the recommendations from this report. He's said he'll back what's called a gun violence restraining order, which would allow family members to ask judges to take guns away from those they suspect could commit gun violence.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.