Adam Lanza’s educational history

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(Updated 10/11/2014 per the info in this post)

I’ve been getting a lot of traffic from people looking for the Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza’s educational history, due to the news that the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is looking toward home-school reforms as one of their recommendations. Most discussions that have linked here are arguing whether or not the shooter was ever home-schooled, or what exactly his educational history is like.

I don’t have an opinion on home schooling either way, but many of the conversations linking to this blog contain confusion or deception regarding the facts.

So, here it is (as best as I can puzzle it out, and with sources cited):

Adam Lanza’s educational history

The primary source this timeline will be based on is the official report from the Connecticut State Attorney’s office, and the Connecticut State Police. Relevant sections will be shown in screenshots. I’ll also be using three other sources to clarify the information in the official report:

  1. Raising Adam Lanza: Who Was Nancy Lanza? (PBS Frontline/Hartford Courant)
  2. Adam Lanza’s Medical Records Reveal Growing Anxiety  (Hartford Courant)
  3. The Reckoning (Andrew Solomon’s interview with Peter Lanza from The New Yorker)

Adam Lanza’s elementary School educational history

Kindergarten (1997-1998) Adam Lanza attended kindergarten in the Kingston, New Hampshire school system. The exact school isn’t named in the official report, but the family did not move to Sandy Hook until the latter half of 1998, when Adam was in 1st grade.

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First Grade (1998-1999) Adam attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for first grade. He was not home-schooled. Source: Raising Adam Lanza (see excerpt under 2nd grade, below)

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Second grade (1999-2000) Adam attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for second grade. He also began an arrangement where his mother Nancy would come to the school after classes ended, to go over Adam’s work with him alone. Frontline interprets Adam’s involvement in this “after hours” program as meaning he was home-schooled otherise:

Adam never actually left the Newtown school district. He remained enrolled, entering a special program in which he did prepared lessons at home, according to a family member of Nancy Lanza who asked not to be identified.

…but this is inaccurate. Adam went to SHES during the day, and stayed after class as well.

Third Grade (2000-2001) Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for third grade, and stayed after normal school hours to complete his work alone, with his mother Nancy. He was not home-schooled. (Source: see notes from Second Grade section)

Fourth Grade (2001-2002) Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for fourth grade, and stayed after normal school hours to complete his work alone, with his mother Nancy. He was not home-schooled. (Source: see notes from Second Grade section)

Fifth Grade (2002-2003) Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for fifth grade, and stayed after normal school hours to complete his work alone, with his mother Nancy. He was not home-schooled.

He also attended Reed Intermediate School for the latter half of the year.

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Adam records his attendance at Sandy Hook this year by signing a shirt along with the rest of his classmates. This was the “last fifth grade” at Sandy Hook. The whole class was transferred, mid-year, to the newly-constructed Reed Intermediate School in Newtown (which teaches fifth and sixth grades only.)

The Courant’s “Medical Records” article confirms the timing of this move:

Three school officials who worked with children with special needs at Reed Intermediate School and Newtown Middle School said they don’t recall Lanza coming up on the radar screen for any pressing problems. Lanza and his classmates were the first fifth-graders to attend the intermediate school, moving from Sandy Hook Elementary School to Reed in mid-year in 2003.

Note that “mid-year 2003” here refers to the 2002-2003 school year. A frequent source of confusion in articles about Lanza’s educational history is the confusion of academic and calendar years; at first glance, “mid-year 2003” might be interpreted as academic year 2003-2004, and then the whole timeline is off by a year. Something to keep in mind.

Adam Lanza’s middle school educational history

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Sixth Grade (2003-2004) Adam Lanza attended Reed Intermediate School for 6th grade. I can find no indication that he was homeschooled this year.

Seventh Grade (2004-2005) Adam Lanza attended Newtown Middle School and St. Rose of Lima for 7th grade. I can find no indication that he was homeschooled this year.

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Likely, Adam was listed as “camera shy” in the Newtown Middle School yearbook because by the time the yearbook was being compiled, Nancy had transferred him to St. Rose of Lima (April 2005). From the “Medical Records” article:

Kateleen Foy, now a student at Hofstra University, recalled Lanza coming to seventh-grade late in the year to St. Rose, a silent, shy boy who was once photographed offering a tentative wave from his seat at the lunch table. Foy said she did not recall Lanza being bulled at the school.

June 2005 marked the end of Lanza’s short time at St. Rose.

Eighth Grade (2005-2006)

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Note: It is right around here, 2005-2006, when Adam’s mental state becomes noticeably unstable, and his educational history reflects that going forward. 

As far as I can tell, Adam Lanza was home-schooled for all except the first few weeks (or perhaps just days) of this school year. Very little solid information is available about his 8th grade year, but Nancy’s actions and Adam’s mental health records suggest he was not attending school for most of it.

Sometime in September 2005, Nancy took Adam to the emergency room at Danbury Hospital because of his extreme anxiety in groups – presumably, at school. (“Medical Records” article, page 2):

By the start of eighth grade, at Newtown Middle School, Lanza was overcome with anxiety and missing school. On a September day in 2005, Nancy Lanza drove her son to Danbury Hospital’s emergency room.

According to a hospital medical record, Adam Lanza had been experiencing anxiety for several days and on that particular day was “presenting as more anxious,” particularly in groups. The report also notes Lanza’s discomfort with being touched, a condition that had troubled him since early childhood. Nancy Lanza wondered whether her son was “outgrowing borderline autism,” the report said.

Doctors evaluated Lanza that day and determined he was not a danger to himself or others. They did not admit him or prescribe medication, but recommended that he follow up with his doctor.

Nancy Lanza, according to the medical record, was not entirely satisfied with what the emergency room doctors did. An investigator familiar with the report said Nancy Lanza unsuccessfully pushed the doctors for more answers. She wanted them to give her permission to keep her son out of school.

At this same juncture, the psychiatric records from Dr. Paul J Fox begin; it appears that Nancy sought out this doctor for a “second opinion” after the emergency room staff would not provide a recommendation that Adam be taken out of school. From the New Yorker Interview with Peter:

When Adam was thirteen, Peter and Nancy took him to Paul J. Fox, a psychiatrist, who gave a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome (a category that the American Psychiatric Association has since subsumed into the broader diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder). Peter and Nancy finally knew what they were up against. “It was communicated as ‘Adam, this is good news. This is why you feel this way, and now we can do something about it,’ ” Peter recalled. But Adam would not accept the diagnosis.

Peter and Nancy, who remained amicable in dealing with their children’s needs, looked into special schools, public and private. Peter went to a meeting of the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) to talk to adults on the spectrum and to try to imagine a life for his son. He hoped that “eventually we could get him into GRASP and he would form relationships and maybe get married to somebody else with Asperger’s.” Nancy considered moving to a town fifty miles away, where the school system had strong programs for children with special needs, but concluded that the disruption involved would cancel out any benefits. She briefly enrolled Adam in a Catholic school that seemed to offer more structure, but that didn’t go well, either. Fox recommended homeschooling, arguing that the disadvantages of sending Adam to a regular school were worse than those of isolating him from his peers. From eighth grade on, Nancy taught Adam the humanities and Peter met with Adam twice a week to handle the sciences.

Nancy coordinated the home curriculum with Newtown High School to insure that Adam could graduate rather than simply get a G.E.D. She initiated all such major decisions. “I took the back seat,” Peter said. Even after beginning homeschooling, Adam continued to attend Newtown High’s Tech Club meetings.

The “Catholic school” that Nancy enrolled Adam in was of course St. Rose of Lima, which was actually the previous year (7th grade) but this is probably just the writer condensing information for brevity’s sake.

Adam Lanza’s High School educational history

Adam’s high school education records are roughly consistent with the description that Peter provided in his interview with Andrew Solomon: Adam took some classes at Newtown High and was homeschooled for others, and for the last two years Adam took classes at Western Connecticut State University, for high school credit at Newtown High School. He was still attending the Tech Club meetings until Summer of 2008, despite not actually going to the school otherwise (another frequent source of confusion.)

Freshman year (2006-2007): Adam Lanza attended Newtown High School. According to his father, he was also home-schooled during this school year.

Sophomore year (2007-2008): Report cards found in the home show that Adam Lanza attended Newtown High School from at least November 2007 to April 2008. A class schedule suggests he also attended the Fall quarter that year (Sept-Nov 2007):

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According to Adam’s father, he was also home-schooled during this school year.

Summer 2008: Adam Lanza attended WCSU, for credit at Newtown High School.

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(WCSU COURSES: Website Production, Visual Basic)

Senior Year (2008-2009)

Fall 2008: Attended WCSU and was home-schooled, for credit at Newtown High School

(WCSU COURSES: Data Modeling, introduction to Ethical Theory)

(note that WCSU is on a Semester schedule and thus there is no “Winter quarter” – Spring semester immediately follows Fall semester, and starts in January.

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Spring 2009: Attended WCSU and homeschooled, for credit at Newtown High School

(WCSU COURSES: Introductory German I, American History Since 1877)

Summer 2009: Attended WCSU and homeschooled, for credit at Newtown High School

(WCSU COURSE: Principles of Macroeconomics)

(note that WCSU summer sessions only last from mid-May to late June; this was probably the last credit that Adam needed to complete graduation requirements, hence only one class and why he graduates immediately after)

June 25, 2009: Adam Lanza’s earns his diploma from Newtown High School

Adam Lanza’s schooling after graduating High School

Adam Lanza attended Norwalk Community College after graduating high school.

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Adam registered for a computer repair class in late August of 2009, presumably for Fall quarter. (I suspect that this was actually some kind of work-study course, as numerous police interviews recall that he “worked briefly at a computer repair shop” in Newtown. A business card for a computer repair shop was also found in the home.)

Other reports state that he “attended Norwalk Community College in 2010 but dropped out.” I don’t know if that refers to this class with the wrong date, or if he registered for a second round of classes in 2010.

So, that’s it. You will find some reports out there that conflict with this timeline, but usually they are confusing academic years with calendar years, and the dates are thus wrong. Also, some interviews in the official report contain wrong information (such as Adam attending “St. Mary’s School” but that is because these are interview transcripts; the interview subjects are (understandably) mistaken about another child’s education history more than a decade after the fact.

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About Reed Coleman

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