In ninth grade, Adam returned to public school, but his difficulty relating to people was obvious even to those who had only casual contact with him. Newtown High, one of the largest schools in Connecticut with 1,750 students, reflects the town’s affluence — the median family income is $104,000 — with 87 percent of students planning to attend college and test scores well above the state average.
A high school classmate who was on the honor roll with Adam in 10th grade saw his photo after the shootings and didn’t recognize the young man. Then she saw an older picture, from Newtown High’s tech club, which is where she came to know Adam.
“I knew exactly who it was,” she said, talking on the condition of anonymity.
Lanza was the only kid at Newtown High who dressed as he did — Dockers, polo shirts, something like “business casual,” said the classmate. Adam’s shirt was often untucked. His clothes never quite fit, hanging off him, “loose. They were nice clothes but ill-fitting. It made for a funny picture. It would look strange.”
Adam carried a briefcase every day. No other students did.
Newtown High was a cold place for a kid like Adam, according to his peers and their parents. He was alone and apart from the school’s intricate social circles and the swirl of teenager politics.
The classmate said she, too, was nerdy and had a tough time with the popular kids. “No one went out of their way to include me,” she said. “Anyone who was different didn’t fit in. If you let it get to you, it would destroy you.”
She would see Adam in the cafeteria, sitting near her small group of friends, invariably surrounded by people but never saying a word to any of them.
“This is a person you would have had to watch and care for and protect him from the other students,” said Richard Novia, who was security director for the Newtown schools for 16 years. “This is a boy who always had a buttoned shirt right to the top button.”
Adam was not only “a quiet, shy child, small in stature . . . and challenged to make friends,” but also regularly had episodes in which “he’d just shut down and pull within himself,” Novia told the Associated Press. “He would avoid verbal or physical contact with just about anyone if he could. Getting him back out of that would be challenging.”
On such occasions, the school would contact his mother, whom Novia saw as “an excellent parent,” and she could coax her son out of his shell.
Novia also knew Adam through the high school’s tech club, which brought together teens who played computer games and wrote programming code.
Club members said they would gather at one another’s houses to link their laptops and play games at LAN parties, named for the local area network that connected their computers. According to club members, Adam played “Star Craft” and “War Craft III: Reign of Chaos,” in which, as the manufacturer puts it, a dark “shadow has fallen over the world, threatening to extinguish all life — all hope.”