Student Voice


January 28, 2023


Letter to the editor

Article misstates number killed at Sandy Hook

February 14, 2019

I happened to pick up the Student Voice today at the Co-op because I was interested in the article about the police chief discussing school shootings.

I was surprised and disappointed to read in the first paragraph that the number of deaths at “an elementary school” was reported wrong. It wasn’t twenty people total including the shooter, it was twenty children and six educators. Plus the gunman. That seems like a large margin of error; seven whole humans.

You all may not know this, but for the last six years that particularly horrendous American tragedy has been called into question, called a hoax. The families who lost their first graders, and the first responders who tried against all odds to save them, have been told that it was all made up. That the loved ones they lost didn’t really die, or worse yet never really lived at all. Of all the mass shootings to minimize the impact, it’s extra awful with Sandy Hook.

In this time of “alternative facts” it is even more important to be vigilant about fact checking. I hope you’ll correct it somehow. What frustrates me the most is that if the author and editor are so off in basic facts, then it really isn’t common knowledge even among higher educated Americans. And if we don’t even know what we’re talking about, nor how bad it really is, how can we begin to turn the tide toward a time when students, educators, and parents of all levels won’t have to endlessly prepare against, and anxiously await, the next tragedy?

I realized in conversation with my college student nephew last year that he knew of Columbine, but he didn’t really know the facts of what had happened and why it was really such a big deal. He didn’t understand that there used to be a time when these events weren’t commonplace. That for 30 years there was one mass school shooting (UTexas tower) that hardly anyone knew about. And then Columbine changed everything like an earthquake across the ocean where the ripple builds so fast and spreads so far it decimates the entire unsuspecting far coast by tsunami. 20 years is a really brief period of time for the cultural shift that has us all accepting this new normal to the point of being blasé about whether there were 19 or 26 murdered at an elementary school six years ago.

I really am glad you’re talking about the topic, but please don’t assume your readers know what a labeled event was until you tell them, and don’t assume you know what to tell them until you do good, solid, double-checked research. I hope you all take this as constructive criticism and continue in this field cognizant of the critically important opportunity you have to educate or miseducate by what you publish. It’s not just the faculty that teach students in college. And it’s not just students who read your paper. Your influence is really important, even on the minor details that aren’t the main story. It’s imperative that you are correct on the facts.

Patsy Werwie
River Falls