Interview With Adam Lanza's Teacher

Jennifer Huettner was Adam Lanza's teacher for the 9th and 10th and 11th grades. He left without graduating to take college classes. He got his GED from the college.

She says he was home-schooled for the 7th and 8th grades. In the 9th grade, he returned to school and was in a portable classroom by himself. He had Asperger's.

“He didn’t want to be around people,” Jennifer explains. “Our goal was to get him back in the building.”

Adam’s mother Nancy would drop him off, then sit in the next room while Jennifer worked with him.“He was very OCD. He’d clean the desk with Purell,” Jennifer remembers.

He displayed no signs of violence. He never had a tantrum. He was not bullied. In the 10th grade he was in the main building. [More...]

Adam did not graduate from Newtown High School.

After 3 years Adam left Newtown, to take classes at Western Connecticut State University. Jennifer says he earned his GED there.

She socialized sometimes with Nancy Lanza.

“She dragged me to Red Sox games — even though I’m a Yankee fan,” Jennifer says. “She always got great seats.” They went to New York together too.

Huettner also taught Ryan Lanza, who she says "wouldn't harm a fly." She says Nancy Lanza never mentioned guns to her.

< John Kerry Named Secretary Of State | Obama Press Conference on Fiscal Cliff >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    This is just so very, very sad (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by Zorba on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:01:24 PM EST
    Adam Lanza had problems that were far from Asperger's Syndrome, or even OCD, which is not unknown among those in the autism spectrum.  The thinking and the research in this area is far from settled, but there are indications.  See the meta-analysis here.  Also see this.
    In any case, as a former special educator who worked with students on the autism spectrum, I sincerely hope that Adam's condition/conditions do not create more problems for individuals on the autism spectrum.  Autistic people, people with Asperger's Syndrome, people with PDD-NOS, or for that matter, people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, are not any more likely to become mass murderers than anyone else.
    Clearly, there was something else going on with this young man.  I just do not want those on the autism spectrum to become the scapegoats.  

    Word choices by AP (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by MO Blue on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:41:36 PM EST
    In high school, Lanza used to slither through the hallways, awkwardly pressing himself against the wall while wearing the same green shirt and khaki pants every day. He hardly ever talked to classmates and once gave a presentation entirely by computer, never uttering a single word.

    I am very much afraid that the direction this discussion is taking is going more into demonizing people with development disorders and mental illnesses rather than expanding care and research.


    Yes, I am also (none / 0) (#4)
    by Zorba on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:57:43 PM EST
    afraid of this.  As someone who has been in the field, my heart hurts for the demonetization that is likely occurring, even as we speak (or type).  

    My daughter works with pre-kindergarten (none / 0) (#6)
    by MO Blue on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:06:50 PM EST
    children with various types of development disorders in special ed. I know some of their staffing (aides etc.) have been reduced because of budget restraints in the last couple of years.

    Yes, well (none / 0) (#9)
    by Zorba on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:16:42 PM EST
    That is happening all across the education field.  At the same time, they are requiring more and more from the teachers, while criticizing the educational results.
    All I can say is, "you get what you pay for."  If society is not willing to pay for decent education, then they need to shut the f*ck up about the workers in that field.
    Oh, I need to break out the Jack Daniels and have a shot.  I am getting so depressed.  MO Blue, give your daughter a big hug from me, because I know what she is going through.  We keep fighting these battles every d@mned year.

    Change "demonetization" (none / 0) (#7)
    by Zorba on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:08:28 PM EST
    to "demonization." Doggone it, we cannot edit after we post.

    If we could edit after we posted a comment, (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by MO Blue on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:11:13 PM EST
    I definitely would have to comment less so that I could spend most of my time editing.

    Some people might think that was a good thing. :o)


    Considering that funding will probably be cut... (none / 0) (#25)
    by unitron on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 09:10:59 AM EST
    ...for dealing with these kinds of problems, "de-monitization" may not be the wrong word after all.

    yes, there was something else (none / 0) (#3)
    by TeresaInPa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:41:40 PM EST
    some personality disorder or other mental illness.  I had a person try to tell me last weekend that Lanza was NOT crazy, he was simply a right wing gun nut and that is why he did it..... as if people on the right who own guns have some weird motivation to kill children.
    Then you have the NRA which can't even offer suggestions about how to more dependably keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminal.

    If we have people on both ends so entrenched in extremist positions, how are we ever going to change anything?


    Teresa, I have no answer (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Zorba on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:06:24 PM EST
    for this.  While I am no great fan of the positions of the NRA, I also cannot agree with those who think that "all guns are bad" (as I have said before, we have a rifle, shotguns, and a handgun).  Lanza had so many mental problems going on, and it is beyond stupid to think that he killed all those people because he was a "right wing gun nut."  It is so much more complex than that, and the talking points of both ends are, as you suggested, so entrenched.
    I despair that we can find any answer to this.  It seems to be a sickness in our culture, and d@mned if I know how to change it.

    sorry, don't buy into this: (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by cpinva on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 07:51:30 PM EST
    If we have people on both ends so entrenched in extremist positions, how are we ever going to change anything?

    i want all semi-automatic (and relatively easily convertible to fully automatic) weapons removed from the civilian gun pool. no legitimate need for them. they serve one purpose only, and that's killing people.

    i want stringent controls on who is allowed to have a gun, of any type, and the ammunition to go with it. make the production/sale of cheap guns illegal. the "saturday night special" serves only one purpose, killing people. make gun manufacturers liable for the carnage their products cause, give them a fiscal incentive to do everything they can, to keep guns out of the hands of those who would use them inappropriately.

    as it stands, no one in the gun revenue stream has any reason to be concerned about personal/corporate liability, for the damage resulting from their products getting into the wrong hands, none. a barkeep has greater liability, for serving a drunk person another drink, who then goes and kills someone (by accident), in a car, than gun manufacturers/sellers do, when their product is used as intended. something is terrbly wrong with that picture.

    sorry, i don't consider my position "extreme", i consider it coldly rational, for a supposedly advanced society.


    It's good to know what you want cpinva (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Slayersrezo on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 08:22:55 PM EST
    But it's even better to know you are getting none of it.

    As opposed to you getting (none / 0) (#19)
    by Yman on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 09:11:03 PM EST
    ... your voluntary media embargo?  Armed guards at all large gatherings?  An end to the "war on drugs"?  Ban clips with more than 10 rounds and some assault weapons (tightly defined, of course)?


    The last one is the only one with any chance at all, and you only throw that in there reluctantly as a tiny bone to gun control advocates.

    If you want to mock cpinva's proposals as unrealistic and take joy in that fact, you should check the mirror, first.


    While I agree with you (none / 0) (#17)
    by Zorba on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 08:45:17 PM EST
    about "semi-automatics," cpinva, I cannot agree about "stringent controls on who is allowed to have a gun, of any type."
    You are going to have to amend or repeal the Second Amendment for that first, buddy (or lady, as the case may be).  It just ain't gonna happen.
    You need to stick with what is possible.  What you want is fairy-tale stuff, and it is no more possible than hoping that Tinkerbell comes down and helps you.  You need to realize the difference between a "wish" and a "plan."

    "i want all semi-automatic" (none / 0) (#22)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 12:20:31 AM EST
    i want all semi-automatic (and relatively easily convertible to fully automatic) weapons removed from the civilian gun pool. no legitimate need for them. they serve one purpose only, and that's killing peopl
    You really are clueless.

    "Clueless"? (none / 0) (#23)
    by Yman on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 08:44:53 AM EST
    You disagree with the stated goal (removal of all semi-autos) or the opinion that there's no legitimate need for them because they serve one purpose only, killing people?

    I'd agree they serve other purposes (hunting, target shooting), but the question of whether they're necessary for these other purposes is a matter of opinion.  You could also hunt/target shoot with a bolt/pump/lever action gun.


    "they serve one purpose only, (none / 0) (#26)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 10:14:54 AM EST
    they [all semi-automatic weapons] serve one purpose only, and that's killing people
    is clueless.

    Depends (none / 0) (#34)
    by Yman on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 03:15:38 PM EST
    ... on whether cpinva was talking about all semi-autos, or those that are easily convertible to automatics:

    i want all semi-automatic (and relatively easily convertible to fully automatic) weapons removed from the civilian gun pool. no legitimate need for them. they serve one purpose only, and that's killing people.

    If it's the latter> I would agree him/her, although even if it's the former, he/she was obviously expressing his/her opinion, not claiming that the guns literally serve only one purpose.  You can use a Barrett M82 .50 caliber sniper rifle or for target shooting, but that's not its real purpose.  He//, on Mythbusters they cut some telephone poles down using an M134 minigun, but its real purpose is to kill people.


    Also, ... (none / 0) (#24)
    by Yman on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 08:47:15 AM EST
    ... it's a little unclear from the post, but it looks like cpinva may be suggesting his/her goal is the removal of all semi-autos that are easily convertible to fully automatic, as opposed to all semi-autos.

    How would that be "clueless"?


    you answered a comment I did not make (none / 0) (#27)
    by TeresaInPa on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 10:44:13 AM EST
    what I said was extreme was someone thinking Lanza did what he did simply because he was a right wing gun nut, indoctrinated in a culture of hate and violence... no mental illness involved.

    But now that you have stated your position I'll respond.  I don't think your position is extreme.  I just think it won't and should not fly here in the US. Would you want the right deciding what you can and should have according to what they think you should need or want?  Nope, I bet not.
     Yes most guns have the purpose of killing people.  That's why the 2nd amendment.  At the time it covered weapons of war and self protection.  
    No, colonial Americans didn't have gun ships or cannons and American citizens now do not have surface to air missiles or tanks.  But they do have semi automatic weapons and as long as they are law abiding sane citizens with no intention of committing murder or armed insurrection, they have a right to them.
    So can we get to what CAN be done?  Because the right and the left talking past each other with the same old talking points is bullshit. It does nothing but insures another incident like Sandy Hook while we piss away valuable time.

    BTW, I neither own nor desire semi automatic weapons.  I know gun collectors who do.  They are perfectly normal people who love kids and pay their taxes. They don't live in compounds.  They have regular jobs.  ;)


    Oddly, I know a lot of people who own guns (none / 0) (#29)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 12:02:30 PM EST
    and I would say that every single one of them has at least one semi-auto.

    Ok, except Zorba!

    I think there is a profound mis-perception that "semi-automatic weapon" means "semi-automatic military-looking weapon originally designed for killing people."

    Of all the people I know who own guns, only a few have "semi-automatic military-looking weapons."

    Semi-automatic weapons run the gammut from a kid's backyard CO2-powered BB-gun to pistols to varmint guns to deer/elk/etc. hunting guns to military-looking weapons and probably a few others I'm forgetting.


    Au contraire, sarc (none / 0) (#30)
    by Zorba on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 01:07:38 PM EST
    While our own three long guns are not semi-automatics, our son (who lives with us right now, being between jobs) owns a semi-automatic handgun.  Legal, registered, locked in a gun safe except when he takes it out to target practice.  In this state, he had to undergo a background check to register it.

    Well, there you go! (none / 0) (#31)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 01:37:10 PM EST
    He has promised me (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Zorba on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 02:19:01 PM EST
    that he will take me out and teach me how to use it, which I would like to do.  I definitely know how to use our rifle and two shotguns, and I am not comfortable having a weapon in the house that I do not know how to use, gun safe or no gun safe.  Since it looks like he will be living here for the foreseeable future, it would seem best that I learn how to handle this handgun.  (Mr. Zorba already knows how to use it.)
    I guess, despite some of my previous comments, it is not a blanket "semi-automatic" ban that I would favor, or a blanket "assault-style" weapon ban.  Such bans would need to be worded far more carefully than they normally are.
    What would you think, sarc, about limiting the size of the magazines available for purchase?  What about registration and background checks for all gun purchases?
    I wish that I had a good answer for all of this.  Other than completely changing the culture and mind-set in this country, which just ain't gonna happen.  :-(

    people who should not have them.

    I do not like the "gunshow loophole," however, on a practical level, I do not think that closing that "loophole" will significantly deter the wrong people from getting guns.

    And, imo, if you make high-capacity mags (say, >15-20 rounds) illegal, then only the "wrong" people will have them. And the military and LEO's.

    Anyway, sure, make laws against these things. Heck, I might even support them. But I have grave doubts that these types of laws would make any significant difference in our country.

    I'm sorry, as  write this I am looking at pics of my kids when they were around 1st grade, and I cannot conceive of how I would feel if they were killed - by any means, not just shot by someone who flipped his lid.

    I honestly do not know the answer.


    Neither do I (none / 0) (#38)
    by Zorba on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 06:50:16 PM EST
    know the answer.  And it fills me with despair.

    you are right (none / 0) (#39)
    by TeresaInPa on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 07:36:02 PM EST
    I am using the terms rather loosely depending on context.  Technically the sig I carry for self protection is semi automatic.  So I misspoke. What I should have said is that I have no desire for a semi automatic assault rifle.  I do know many gun collectors who own them.

    I'll ask again..... (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by NYShooter on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 07:34:37 PM EST
    And, I would ask the site moderators to monitor it, that having mental/developmental issues is not being, "crazy," nor are those afflicted "nuts."

    We've come so far in eradicating mean-spirited stereotypes: We don't use the "N" word anymore, nor any of the other racial/religious pejoratives. A brain is an organ, like a kidney. We don't call people with kidney disease, "nuts." We shouldn't add insult to injury by calling people with mental issues those names either.

    Finally, I know it's not done intentionally; most of the commenters here are too smart for that. And, I catch myself doing it also. All I ask is that we try. Stopping an unconscious behavior begins by consciously trying to stop. Just think if, heaven forbid, you had a four year old little girl with a mental problem and someone referred to her as being," crazy."

    Enough said,
    Thank you.

    Thank you. (none / 0) (#21)
    by oculus on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 10:58:55 PM EST
    sorry (none / 0) (#28)
    by TeresaInPa on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 10:55:36 AM EST
    you are right and I should know better.  I normally would not use such words, but given the actions of Lanza..... well, still it could be hurtful to other people I suppose.  Thanks for the reminder.

    Hey, I appreciate that (none / 0) (#32)
    by NYShooter on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 01:43:07 PM EST
    It's not that the words are offensive; telling a friend, "you're crazy," or a commenter here, "that's just nuts," are just lively expressions. It's when we're talking
    about an actual mentally disturbed, or socially debilitated person, that the terms are inappropriate.

    Like I said, I've been the biggest offender and have to catch myself every day still.

    Thanks again for your sincere response.

    Some gun dialogue is never heard (none / 0) (#35)
    by Palli on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 05:06:48 PM EST

    I am neither fearless or fearful of gun owners. But it appears to me that the intolerance and disrespect is at least as equally prevalent against those of us who will not own a gun, touch a gun or knowingly be near a gun. I am one of these people and yet I have been gun evangelized as if I was too stupid to be walking the earth.

    Although I know people who enjoy shooting and/or collect guns; they never become friends. I reject the attraction and allure of gun power; it is as repellent as the noise of the tool. I do not aspire to the sense of power I am told guns embolden. My feeling against guns is an extension of my feeling against any power hunger.

    how do you think that might change (none / 0) (#43)
    by TeresaInPa on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 07:57:55 PM EST
    if you were assaulted?

    the answer is (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by Palli on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 08:24:27 PM EST
    I have been and I did not wish for a gun.  
    I work very hard to confirm and practice this belief. I would never put myself in a position to hold a gun, let alone aim and shoot.

    no violence in this profile (none / 0) (#36)
    by diogenes on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 06:10:48 PM EST
    There is nothing in Adam Lanza's profile which would enable anyone to predict imminent violence.  There is much in his profile which fits someone who would not go to any proposed mental health treatment (if it were needed) without being forced to by the state.  He didn't live in a poor town and his mother wasn't poor, so the issue wasn't of access to treatment, ASSUMING it was needed.  
    The only way to give every Adam Lanza mental health treatment is by a massive system of state coercion.  Well, it makes more business for me.

    his brother said he had a (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by TeresaInPa on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 07:50:13 PM EST
    personality disorder.  I don't think he was talking about his aspergers syndrome.  How could you know what this kid's profile was better than his brother?
    I think we just have not heard of it yet.

    "Personality disorder" does not always (5.00 / 2) (#47)
    by caseyOR on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 08:28:50 PM EST
    mean "violent." Most people with personality disorders are not violent. I haven't seen anything where Ryan Lanza says his brother was violent.

    oh lord (none / 0) (#49)
    by TeresaInPa on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 10:29:37 AM EST
    personality disorder doesn't always mean violent...but sometimes it does.  You are right, his brother did not say violent. Do you doubt that Adam Lanza was violent and that there were signs that showed he was disturbed and should not be trusted with guns?  Seriously? Just because it has not been spelled out to the general public yet, we are capable of putting 2 and 2 together.
    You know, I had some people close to me try to tell me that the kid that shot Giffords did so because of the target graphic on Palin's web site and the atmosphere of hate the republicans had created in this nation...WRONG.  The kid was a major head case, not even really political.  There is no doubt in my mind that Adam Lanza was a major head case also.  But let's wait a while and see who is right.  I'll try not to be too obnoxious when I say I told you so.

    What we should be asking (none / 0) (#50)
    by Lora on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 06:11:55 PM EST
    ...is why major head cases are picking up guns and committing mass murder?

    There was no indication of imminent violence (5.00 / 1) (#48)
    by Palli on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 08:34:13 PM EST
    in young Lanza life, but there were the tools of violence in his life.
    Guns are tools with an easy, almost effortless, capacity for violence, lethal violence.