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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

New Congress Sworn In; Sandy Hook Students Returns to Class

Aired January 3, 2013 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" in eastern Ohio in the city of Steubenville. Plenty of good people live in Steubenville. Our program tonight is not about them. It's about two members of the local high school football team, hometown heroes who are now charged with raping a teenage girl back in August.

It's about young witnesses who, instead of doing what good people do, took pictures and took video, some of which was leaked online, too. It's about those who praised the alleged attackers and attacked the victim.

Tonight's program is about the people, young and old, who have downplayed what happened because critics say they care so much about the local football team and so little about one of their own local daughters. The good people of Steubenville do care about this, and this is not about them.

Poppy Harlow begins our coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the night of August 11, teenagers in Steubenville, Ohio, gathered to celebrate the end of the summer. The first day of school was just two weeks away. By many accounts, there was heavy drinking going on for most of the night spread out over several different parties.

But it seems that there was more than that, far more. Tweets, photos, and videos possibly document a crime from that night, an alleged sexual assault of a seemingly intoxicated, unconscious underaged teenage girl by members of the high school football team, an assault that other partygoers allegedly watched and later shared details online.

This tweet from a partygoer reads, "Song of the night is definitely 'Rape Me' by Nirvana." Other tweets call the girl sloppy and talk about a dead body, referring to the girl's state of unconsciousness. One tweet even refers to the fact that the girl may have been urinated on, though there is no evidence that actually happened.

Three days after the party, the girl's parents came forward to the police and filed a report alleging sexual assault. They came with a flash drive of incriminating tweets and a possible photo that they saw online according to local police. Many of the postings were soon taken down. The police chief in Steubenville told CNN he asked for any witnesses to come forward with details of what they saw that night, but received almost no responses.

On August 22, two 16-year-old members of the football team, Trent Mays and Malik Richmond, were arrested. They were later charged with rape and Mays was also charged with disseminating photographs of a nude minor. The arrest created a fissure in the community. Some came to the boys' defense, saying they were unfairly and too quickly accused. Others were relieved, tired, they said, of the anything goes culture for the popular football players.

Mays' lawyer denied a rape occurred, saying he will challenge whether any possible sexual activity was consensual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a football player, you get to do anything you want as long as you got a winning season.

HARLOW: Alexandra Goddard, a blogger and former Steubenville resident, started looking into this story after hearing that high school football players were involved. Goddard found most of the online postings and reposted them to her Web site before they were taken down.

ALEXANDRA GODDARD, BLOGGER: I found -- I went through the Twitter accounts and I found very disturbing messages, basically laying out a timeline of what happened that evening and found the cache of the YouTube video, just found all of the social media which told the story of what happened that night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Greetings, citizens of the world. We are Anonymous.

HARLOW: Then, on December 23, the Internet hacker group Anonymous got involved, threatening to release information on the high school football players involved in the incident unless a public apology was made to the allege victim by January 1.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will not sit idly by and watch a group of young men who will turn to rape as a game or a sport get the pass because of athletic ability and small-town luck. You now have the world looking directly at you.

HARLOW: The deadline passed without no apology and Anonymous posted this picture online showing a girl who is seemingly unconscious being carried by her hands and feet by two males. CNN cannot verify that this is a photo of the alleged victim.

They also posted this 12-minute video where partygoers talk about the alleged assault and continually joke about the girl's condition, even at one point saying she must have died because she didn't move during the alleged assault.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if that was your daughter? What if it was? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it isn't. If that was my daughter, I wouldn't care. I would just let her be dead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: And Poppy Harlow joins me live now from Steubenville.

Poppy, I know you had a chance to speak with the chief of police of that town. What's he saying about all of this to you?

HARLOW: Well, he's incredibly disturbed, as many people are in this town about this. He was not able to talk about a lot of the details of the investigation. That's still ongoing and these two young men will go to trial on February 13, but this is what he told me disturbs him most.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM MCCAFFERTY, STEUBENVILLE POLICE CHIEF: The thing I found disturbing is depending on who actually was there, why didn't somebody stop it? I mean, you simply don't do that. I mean, it's -- it's not done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: It's important, Ashleigh, to point out obviously these two men are innocent until found guilty. Again, they are going to stand trial in about a month, but obviously he's sickened that no one stepped in here if indeed these allegations are true.

BANFIELD: But from a lot of the reporting, Poppy, not everyone is sickened by this and I know you have had a chance to be in that town all day long. Is it tense? What does it feel like there and what are people saying?

HARLOW: It's depressing.

People feel like there's a black cloud over their town. I met a mother in front of the local school today because the elementary school is also in the same building as the high school. She was pulling her first grade child out, Ashleigh, because she felt that they were being threatened, that there was so much focus, so much negative focus on the town and this school, she was worried about the safety of her child.

I also spoke with a lot of local business owners and one of them explained to me exactly how it feels. He's lived here for more than 70 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY BARILLA, BUSINESS OWNER: The buzz that keeps coming about is that Steubenville is a bad place, things are being covered up, more people should be arrested. And I feel that's all unjustly so.

HARLOW: Why? BARILLA: Because I think that to condemn an entire city for something that happened is not -- it's not right. To condemn a school, an entire school and all of the kids that go there for something that took place along a few students is still not right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: He said to me, Ashleigh, he feels like this town is now being looked at like Penn State in the wake of that scandal.

But I do want to tell you that I spoke today with the father of one of the football players on that team and he told me -- quote -- he said to me -- "It has divided people to take a position on an incident that may not have even occurred," the alleged rape. So there you have someone questioning if this is even true -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Well, that will certainly be discussed in a court of law.

Poppy Harlow, thank you for that.

Our Susan Candiotti also has more on the latest details of the investigation. She joins me live now.

Listen, Susan, it doesn't matter what people say. It matters what the police have and it matters what kind of evidence exists. What have you been able to find out about the gathering of that evidence?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course we won't find out anything for sure until we see what is actually in the end presented at trial if it begins, as expected, next month.

But the latest I'm hearing, Ashleigh, is this, that prosecutors and the police have been able to recover at least a dozen cell phones and a couple of iPads that they have been going through and analyzing, being done by a team of specialists. Now, the police chief told me that they got back what they could get back, saying that because there have been reports that some of the cell phone videos and/or photos were deleted by some of the people who own them.

However, there is also information that other information was able to be retrieved by these specialists. So the police chief tells me that they did get some evidence from the phones.

BANFIELD: And is there an issue about consent? I mean, the photograph that we saw in Poppy's piece was just repulsive. There's no way anybody in that condition could consent to any of the allegations. But is consent an issue for this case?

CANDIOTTI: It will be an issue, according to one of the defense attorneys who represents Trent Mays, one of the 16-year-olds who is charged.

Now, he maintains that no rape occurred. The lawyer speaking on behalf of his client indicates to me that he will challenge whether any possible sexual activity was consensual. He says that Mays and the alleged victim in this case are boyfriend and girlfriend.

Well, all this is being contradicted, of course, by prosecutors who had a probable cause hearing last October, told the court, in their words, that the defendants treated the alleged victim -- quote -- "like a toy" and as they put it, one of the prosecutors said, we don't have to prove that she said no. We just have to prove that they are doing things to her. She's not moving. She's not responsive. And the evidence is consistent and clear, as they put it.

BANFIELD: And extraordinarily disturbing, I might add. Susan Candiotti, thank you.

I also want to talk more about this notion that people, some people, witnessed and not only did not do the right thing, they did some of the worst things imaginable.

Dr. Drew Pinsky joins us now, along with Rosalind Wiseman, who has been researching teen boys and group behavior for her new book "Masterminds and Wingmen," and also our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Rosalind, let me begin with you and this whole notion about posting these things online. You don't have to tell your children that you're not allowed to rape for them to know that you are not allowed to rape. So what is it about teen boys? And again these are allegations, but what is it about the teen boys that they would think it's OK to do this and then for those who didn't do it to post it and brag about it or joke about it?

ROSALIND WISEMAN, AUTHOR: Well, I think there's a minority of boys who think this is OK and there's a lot more boys who have no idea what to do about it.

And sometimes boys laugh because they are uncomfortable and they are feeling like I have no idea what to do. And I think the reason why they don't know what to do in my experience is two reasons. And one of them is the most important that I think is going on here is these boys feel if they said anything about it, they would not be believed or the adults in the community would not take care of it.

And what I'm hearing from these people is even if it's not rape -- let's just say that's not the case -- do you actually want boys to conduct themselves and have relationships with girls and talk about girls in this way? As a parent of two boys, I would be so fundamentally ashamed of myself as a mother if my boys talked about girls and women like this, let alone what they did, whatever you want to call it.

So for me, as somebody who cares about boys, who works with boys, who knows that most of them want to do the right thing, what we have got to understand is that what it's looking like to me is that there's a lot of boys in this community who do not have faith in the adults that they will do the right thing, they have taught them the basic necessities and the rules of how you conduct yourself.

BANFIELD: OK. And just to sort of dovetail off of that, Dr. Drew, jump in here with me. I know that you have a very strong opinion about alcohol and how that fuels the flames, but let me tell you, alcohol has been around for a long time and this is one of those stories that sort of beats the rest.

(CROSSTALK)

DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: Yes. We should all be disgusted and we should all be scared to death because here's what all of us that are parents are standing here doing, is saying, not my kid.

But the fact of the matter is we live in a world where we don't know that. Pornography has been raining down on these kids. Social media is changing their ability to be empathic. And they are treating particularly women, these young men, as objects because that's what they get on the Internet these days and unless you actively parent against that, you could be stuck with this.

(CROSSTALK)

PINSKY: Wait, Ashleigh.

But on any measure, any measure of any adverse outcome when you look at an adolescent, you found alcohol and drugs, whether it's rape, STDs, unwanted pregnancies, whatever it is. You always find alcohol. And we have to be much more firm and intervene much more aggressively on the alcohol issue.

BANFIELD: And you know what? "The New York Times" reported that this all stemmed, the genesis of this was a very big party, end of summer party at a coach's house that had a full bar and little plastic glasses provided. Certainly, there was a lot of alcohol involved in a lot of...

(CROSSTALK)

PINSKY: I told my kids, if they go to a party where a parent is doing that, I'm going to come show up with the sheriff and have the adults hauled off and I'm...

(CROSSTALK)

PINSKY: Because they are accountable for this.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Make no mistake. I sense that this a story down the line.

Go ahead, Rosalind.

WISEMAN: Well, the thing is, is that coaches are so meaningful to kids. They are such incredible role models.

And the coaches that I work with -- there are some extraordinary coaches -- know that they are so much more than teaching boys on the field, that they are teaching boys about what it means to be a man. And so what I'm thinking is that the coach failed these children in the most fundamental way possible. And for the parents out there, when you're thinking about what do you want to teach your sons, it is not good enough.

In my experience, parents are saying to boys four things. They are saying, be a gentleman, but they are not really saying what that looks like and then they are also saying things like, don't get her pregnant, don't get an STD. If you do something, don't do something stupid and if you do something stupid, don't get caught.

This is what boys are telling me that their parents are telling them.

(CROSSTALK)

WISEMAN: Why kind of message are telling that?

BANFIELD: On the subject of coaches, "The New York Times" actually sent one of their reporters to ask this coach, the head coach why weren't these players benched after these charges and the response that they got, I'm going to quote "The Times" on this -- to coach said to the reporter, "You made me mad now. You're going to get yours and if you don't get yours, somebody close to you will."

And so this is the idolized head coach of this team.

Jeffrey Toobin, jump in here.

There were other voices, clearly, there were lots of photographs that involved other boys. How can you investigate this and tell the difference between a conspirator, somebody who also needs to be charged and somebody who is just a bystander who perhaps doesn't have a duty, a legal duty to respond?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This story is really only a little bit about law.

It's mostly about values and culture and parenting, because the rapists, if they are rapists, they can be prosecuted and certainly the sheriff can try to gather as much evidence as possible. Obviously, the best thing would be if there were photographs, some sort of recordings like that.

But the larger community that protects people who rape, that gives kids alcohol, most of that is beyond the reach of the law, the kids who were laughing, the kids who were saying stupid things.

(CROSSTALK)

PINSKY: Not in California.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Giving the alcohol, you're right about that, Drew. That is a crime. But the kids who were laughing and the kids -- there's a 12- minute video online about a kid saying stupid things. I don't see that as a crime. I see that as a real stupid, bad kid. But that's not something that the law can or probably should get involved in.

PINSKY: No. Right. It's a clarion call for parents to be careful about what's happening to their kids because of the culture we live in. Think about the world we're living in right now, Jeffrey. That's exactly right.

This speaks volumes about our culture and it's not about that little town. It's something that we all as parents have to pay attention to.

BANFIELD: I have seen plenty of prosecutions, by the way, of people who think they are posting a cute picture of their girlfriend and they get slapped with child sex offenses, child pornography suits and they end up being sex offenders for life and these are teenagers. Is that something that the kids who were involved in posting these alleged crimes could face?

TOOBIN: It's possible.

And, remember, one of the two defendants already is charged with distributing a photograph of an underaged...

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Could he end up being a registered sex offender for life?

TOOBIN: Well, of course. He's also being charged with rape. That would make him a sex offender.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: If he beats those charges, you can't necessarily beat the charges when they have your phone and you posted something.

TOOBIN: That's true. But the legal aspect of this is actually fairly straightforward.

You know, you find out -- you get the victim's testimony, you get as many witnesses as you can, but this story is so much bigger than that and so much more complicated because most of what appalls us, what the police chief is talking about, is something that the law cannot reach.

BANFIELD: Bad morality.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Rosalind, the police chief did say that he has been struggling and begging for witnesses to come forward and help in this investigation and so far it looks as though only two or three of these teammates who have come forward and actually ended up being prosecutorial witnesses in this case.

Am I crazy to think that's crazy, that people are not coming forward?

(CROSSTALK)

WISEMAN: No, you are not. You know what's happening, to me? What's happening is that for good reason -- and I don't know what that reason is, but I know from working with kids for a long time that they are not coming forward because they think if they come forward they will be the ones who are punished.

They don't have confidence in the adults in the community that they will do right by them. I am begging parents, begging them who are in community, if you say it's just a fluke, it's just a thing that got out of control, it was a couple of bad kids, let me tell you, you are wrong. This is not just a little glimpse into their life. It was a window. We got a little moment of what's been going on in their lives.

I see it. Just like Dr. Drew says, I see this around the country and parents consistently say, it's just a fluke, because we don't want to ask ourselves those hard questions.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: It's also not that new. I think a lot of people may remember the Jodie Foster movie "The Accused," which is based on a real case in Massachusetts.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Grownups.

TOOBIN: Grownups, but also a lot of the same similarities, a rape observed by lots of other people, no one came forward.

BANFIELD: Cheered.

TOOBIN: Cheered. But none of that -- so that spirit among certain men is not something that was invented with Facebook or Twitter.

BANFIELD: I have got to go, but I need to ask you really quickly -- and literally I'm out of time. But those kids that came forward and did end up being witnesses for the prosecution, immunity, is that part of that deal? Is that possible?

TOOBIN: Well, it is possible, but they might not need it. The question is, what do they need immunity for? Certainly that would be something that if they got lawyers they'd be asking for, though.

BANFIELD: It's distressful on so many levels.

Dr. Drew Pinsky and Rosalind Wiseman and Jeff Toobin, thanks so much. WISEMAN: Thank you for having me.

BANFIELD: Wish we could talk under different circumstances. That's for sure.

So, coming up next, a whole other story -- they swear in a brand- new Congress and the question is, are we all going to be swearing at the brand-new Congress soon? A possibility of more budget showdowns to come. Yay. All of that when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: "Raw Politics" tonight, the terrifying likelihood of fiscal cliff the sequel, fiscal cliff part three, fiscal cliff the phantom menace, and you will see a whole lot more headlines like that, trust me.

But one thing is really clear, people, trust me. A star of the original, House Speaker John Boehner, is going to be back to reprise his role. He narrowly won reelection to the speakership today. And as he's known to do, he got a little emotional.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If you come here humbled by the opportunity to serve, if you have come here to be the determined voice of the people, if you have come here to carry the standard of leadership not demanded by our constituents but by the times, then you have come to the right place.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Speaker Boehner will have fewer Republicans in his camp for the 113th Congress, but he will still have that all-important working majority.

In the meantime, over on the Senate side, Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, watch closely -- these are 44, 45 more strides in a comeback from a stroke. He made it his mission to climb all of the Capitol steps on his return to work, the first inspiring moment of the new Congress. It was bipartisan. It was happy. It was inspiring to Americans.

And then it ended. Will it be the only inspiring moment for us, though?

Joining us now, "New York Times" op-ed columnist Charles Blow, who foresees not such inspiration, fiscal cliff after fiscal cliff in the coming months, and then to his right the lovely and talented GOP contributor Margaret Hoover, and then chief business correspondent Ali Velshi, who is also lovely and talented.

I want to start with you, Ali. I just have to laugh through this because otherwise I will cry. Honestly, I'm just so tired of this. And I know that people in the media are not only ones who are tired of this. We are all tired of it. And yet you say we have got Valentine's Day debt ceilings, St. Patrick's Day, so that sequester, and then the budget deal after that.

Is there any reason for us to believe, regardless of these brand- new members, it's going to be different than the last few fights ?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The only good thing here is that everybody's engaged.

This is one of those things where Americans know more about their economic issues and their budgetary issues than we have in a long time and people are taking it seriously. I think Congress seems to be getting the message. Don't worry about the media, worry about your constituents who are actually mad. They just want something to get done.

The biggest problem is there is just a lot of misinformation about there what is going on. Margaret is not happy that I have been saying this. But the GOP needs to learn the difference between the debt and the debt ceiling.

The debt ceiling was not a spending control measure by any means. It was put in there so the Treasury didn't have to keep on issuing bonds every time the government passed a bill. Most other countries when they issue legislation that has spending associated with it, the money gets spent.

Americans has got this extra stopgap that is not meant to control spending. It was actually the opposite, meant to give Treasury room to issue enough bonds so they didn't have to keep doing it. Using the debt ceiling and the ability to pay our bills for things we have already spent is just outrageous.

It was outrageous in August of '11 and it continues to be outrageous. But the Republicans continue to use this language that somehow it's to control spending. It's just incorrect.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Margaret, I'm going to back him up only in the fact that there are plenty of Republicans in the business community who say, oh, good God, do not use this. This will kill us.

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: The question is, if we went over the cliff or we didn't -- failed to raise the debt ceiling, certainly there would be dire consequences.

The question is, when else is the Congress of the United States going to do anything proactively about spending? They have proven definitively over the last 70 years that they cannot do it. And this has become, for better or for worse, the pivot point, the demarcation, the line in the sand. President Obama says, he is not going to tolerate a debt ceiling fight. But the truth is, it doesn't matter whether he's going to tolerate it or not.

(CROSSTALK)

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It's not for better or worse, Margaret, and you know that. You know it's absolutely for worse.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: Is getting our spending under control for worse, though?

BLOW: One second. The idea that you would allow us to default is outrageous. And there's no way to even kind of deal with that and to argue that as a legitimate point.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: But didn't the Democrats argue going off the cliff might be the way to actually secure a deal?

BLOW: You do have the fight over the sequester. You may have a budget.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOW: But I'm not saying you don't have a fight. I'm not saying you don't have an argument. I'm just saying using the debt ceiling as a point...

HOOVER: You're saying you don't like it.

BLOW: No, it's not about like. It's about destroying the U.S. economy in the process.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Because everyone is talking about the leverage of the debt ceiling. What is the actual damage?

VELSHI: The damage is -- well, Moody's has already warned of it and S&P has warned again that if we do default, the debt rating of the United States, or even if we don't default, if we don't increase the debt limit, the debt rating of the United States may be lowered.

Here's the practical application of that. Generally speaking, if you have a credit card and your credit rating gets damaged, your rate goes up. The last time this happened in August of 2011, America's rates didn't go up. They actually went down. Why? Because Europe was out there in more of a mess than America was.

Today, that's not necessarily the case. We still have a very low borrowing rate. If our borrowing rate goes up as a result of this, that costs everybody. Every loan that everybody touches goes up.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: The other thing is back in 2011 it was widely reported that we were downgraded not because we reached that deal and it wasn't appealing, because we were just intransigent, and the intransigence is what led to the downgrade. And we're intransigent a lot since. And it looks like we're about to be a lot more intransigent.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: ... again.

BANFIELD: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOW: I think the idea that we are not a functioning government anymore, that you look at Washington and they are incapable of doing the kind of perfunctory work.

BANFIELD: Why? What all of a sudden happened? Is it cable news?

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: I'm sorry for being a Pollyanna here, but I came to this country 12 years ago. Excuse me, almost 20 years ago. Geez, it's gone fast.

HOOVER: Two Canadians at the table.

BANFIELD: I know, right?

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: And when I got here, it was not like this and cable news was just starting. And I sometimes wonder if it's just because you do not want to be called out on TV.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: It could be a bunch of things, but where I'm telling you clearly right now, the problem here is the GOP on the debt limit.

Once we get past that, the problem's probably going to be the Democrats on spending. And Margaret says the problem is if you let the debt limit go by, then the Republicans have no leverage to force Democrats to...

(CROSSTALK)

BLOW: You do have the sequester. And you do have to look at the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives.

According to what I read, 52 percent -- 52 of the 59 members of the Tea Party Caucus voted against the bill that prevented us from going over the fiscal cliff. Those people are not in Washington to play ball. They are in to be dug into their holes. And that is a problem.

BANFIELD: They may have a merit to their beliefs, but don't we all have to negotiate, Margaret? We do.

HOOVER: Correct.

And the question is and the challenge for the Republicans now, because they are enormously disorganized right now, they're very scattered, there is no central leadership -- Boehner is dinged from this last round. Will they get organized? Will they decide what they are going to live with?

Will they learn the lesson from plan B that if they had gone ahead and gone with Boehner's plan B, they would have came out with a lot better deal than they got and will they actually -- will they play ball?

BANFIELD: Well, you know what, they should all go for a beer. It seems to work everywhere else in this country, except for Harry Reid. Sorry. Sorry, Senator. I didn't mean you.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: All right, thank you, Charles Blow, Margaret Hoover, and Ali Velshi. You're all just awesome. I love the way you just boil it down.

I want to move on to the other news of the day, and I'm sorry to say it wasn't something that I like to report. It was a very emotional day in Connecticut. The children from Sandy Hook Elementary School, they have been out of school since that horrible gunman episode killed 20 of their classmates, and they have returned to class.

Gary Tuchman has a great report from Newtown coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: The students of Sandy Hook Elementary School went back to school today for the first time since the shooting that killed 20 of their classmates and six adults in the Newtown, Connecticut, school.

Students were relocated to a different one, a different building altogether in a different town nearby in Monroe, Connecticut. That's because Sandy Hook Elementary is still part of an active investigation, and they don't really know if the kids will return to that building.

There's certainly increased security at the new school, an upgraded system of cameras and locks. And counselors were there to help the students and the parents and the teachers, as well. Of course, a very emotional day for everyone.

The school superintendent said that they tried to make it as much of a normal routine as possible, doing the kinds of things that they know are good for kids and that they'd be familiar with.

Gary Tuchman had a chance to speak to a couple of the people at Newtown, who were certainly in our thoughts today. One set of the parents sent their 7-year-old daughter back to school today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ella is a first grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

AIMEE SEAVER, ELLA'S MOTHER: What do you think you're going to do today?

ELLA SEAVER, SANDY HOOK STUDENT: I don't know.

A. SEAVER: You don't know? Excited to see everyone?

ELLA SEAVER: Uh-huh.

A. SEAVER: Chew.

TUCHMAN: She is eating breakfast, getting ready for her first day of school since that horrible day early three weeks ago.

A. SEAVER: It's a cheesy egg sandwich, one of our favorites, right? With ketchup.

TUCHMAN: Ella had her nails painted with Sandy Hook school colors. And with the school initials "S" and "H." Her mom and dad, Amy and Ed, believe that she is, indeed, emotionally ready to go back to school in the new building, in the neighboring town where Sandy Hook is, for the time being, been relocated.

ED SEAVER, ELLA'S FATHER: Have you decided how Mom is going to do your hair?

ELLA SEAVER: Yes, you're going to braid my hair, and I'm going to keep the headband on.

TUCHMAN (on camera): How do you feel about Ella going back to school?

A. SEAVER: It's mixed emotions. You know, it's good, she needs to go back. They all need to go back. They -- you know, they say the best thing you can do is get back to your normal routine, that being one of the hardest things you can do. I'm sure they'll be safe. I'm sure that school is going to be like Ft. Knox today, but at the same point, you're worried how they're going to react.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Ella was in a first-grade class down the hall from where most of the shootings took place. Her teacher told all the children to go in the cubbies, where they keep the jackets and books.

There was a knock on the classroom door. To everyone's relief, it was the police. ED SEAVER: Down the hallway, apparently, there was a line of officers there and said, you know, "Close your eyes," you know, and they got them right out of the school real quick.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Does she know that her friends have died?

A. SEAVER: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. She personally wanted to go to some of the wakes and some of the funerals.

TUCHMAN: And you did that?

A. SEAVER: That was her choice. And...

TUCHMAN: That was really smart of you.

A. SEAVER: I don't know. Some people would tell me it wasn't.

TUCHMAN: I think it was. But to be honest, to your children, as long as they have good parents.

A. SEAVER: Well, I hope. It was hard. She spent one of the funerals kicking the pew in front of her, which I realize was anger.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Ella says she's nervous but excited to go back to school. She loves math.

(on camera) Tell me why you like math so much.

ELLA SEAVER: I just think it's fun. Even though it's hard, we get fun activities to do. And I like working in our workbooks.

TUCHMAN: Do you know what one plus one is?

ELLA SEAVER: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Three, right?

ELLA SEAVER: No, it's two.

TUCHMAN: You're right. See, I didn't pay attention in first grade. You obviously are.

(voice-over) Ella is clearly ready to start the day. The former middle school has been renovated and retrofitted over the past weeks for its smaller occupants.

It is a frigid day.

A. SEAVER: Let me get my coat.

TUCHMAN: And then it's time to head out to the bus stop, where Ella joins three other children and their mothers as the bus pulls up.

ED SEAVER: Be good.

ELLA SEAVER: OK. ED SEAVER: Love you.

ELLA SEAVER: Put me down before my skirt goes up.

ED SEAVER: All right. OK.

A. SEAVER: Love you.

TUCHMAN: The children run to the bus. The bus driver is a familiar face to the kids and the parents.

But we watch the parents' faces carefully. They all vividly remember what happened on the day they last put their children on the very same school bus.

(on camera) On this first day back, parent were encouraged to spend the day at school with their children, so many parents did. There isn't enough parking at the school, so buses were provided for the parents, too.

(voice-over) Just after 4 p.m., Ella returned home. Her first day back turned out to be just fine.

A. SEAVER: Good? Really good?

ELLA SEAVER: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Sandy Hook Elementary is open once again.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Newtown, Connecticut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Coming up, an adoption battle that centers on a little girl named Veronica. And this battle is about to take a dramatic turn, because the two families who love her and who want to raise her are soon going to find out if the U.S. Supreme Court will even weigh in on their fate. We'll give you a "360 Follow," just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: A "360 Follow" now. Tomorrow could be a major turning point in a story that we've been following for months. It's a heartbreaking adoption battle. And it's centered around this adorable toddler. Her name is Veronica.

The South Carolina couple that she's known as Mommy and Daddy for most of her life is fighting to get her back. They petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling that took her away from them and gave her biological father custody of little Veronica, and now Veronica lives in another state altogether.

In a private conference room tomorrow, the Supreme Court justices will discuss this case, and they'll decide whether or not they're even going to review it. The court's decision will almost certainly shape these two families' futures and possibly a lot of other people's futures, too.

Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is video from the last time Matt and Melanie Capobianco saw their little girl, Veronica, New Year's Eve 2011. They had raised her for two years and were in the process of adopting her when a South Carolina family court ordered them to hand her over to the girl's biological father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think this was in her best interest?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so.

KAYE: A man Veronica had never even met.

MATT CAPOBIANCO, FIGHTING FOR CUSTODY OF VERONICA: For our little girl to be put in a car with strangers and driven to Oklahoma and having no recourse or control over it, you know, we're her parents. I'm her father, you know. We're supposed to be there to protect her.

MELANIE CAPOBIANCO, FIGHTING FOR CUSTODY OF VERONICA: You want to be an engineer when you grow up?

VERONICA: Yes.

KAYE: Now 3, Veronica is caught in the middle of one of the strangest adoption cases we've ever heard.

It all began in 2009 before she was born, when Veronica's biological mother put her up for adoption. The Capobiancos thrilled when an adoption attorney connected them with the biological mother. She told them the girl's father, Dustin Brown, had agreed to waive his parental rights. When Veronica was born, it was Matt who cut the umbilical cord. Ever since, she's lived with them in South Carolina.

MELANIE CAPOBIANCO: I guess people think that we're not supposed to love her until the ink is dry. We're supposed to kind of care for her until, you know, everything is, you know, years down the line and she's adopted.

KAYE: The Capobiancos were heartbroken when, just four months after they brought Veronica home, her biological father filed for paternity and custody, even though he had already signed a legal document saying he would not contest Veronica's adoption.

He was able to do so, thanks to a little-known federal law from 1978 called the Indian Child Welfare Act. You see, Brown is part Cherokee and a member of the Cherokee nation, which means Veronica is part Cherokee, too.

Congress passed the law after finding 30 percent of Indian children were being removed from their homes, and almost all of them were being placed with non-Indian families. The law is designed to keep Indian children with Indian family members and protect the interests of those children.

MELANIE CAPOBIANCO: I don't know how tearing a child away from the only family she's ever known without any transition period and no visitation is in her best interests.

KAYE: The attorney general for the Cherokee Nation thinks the law is working.

TODD HEMBREE, ATTORNEY GENERAL, CHEROKEE NATION: It's not anyone's ever intent to rip a child away from a loving home, but we want to make sure those loving homes have the opportunity to be Indian homes first.

KAYE: After the family court ruled in Dustin Brown's favor, the Capobiancos petitioned the South Carolina Supreme Court, hoping the higher court would overturn the ruling.

(on camera) In July, after more than three months of waiting, the Capobiancos got more bad news. The Supreme Court here in South Carolina ruled in favor of Veronica's biological father.

It wasn't an easy decision for the court, though. The justices were split 3-2. In the majority opinion, they wrote they are upholding the family court's ruling with a heavy heart.

(voice-over) The majority opinion concluded, "The biological father and his family have created a safe, loving, and appropriate home for her."

Those in the dissenting opinion argued federal law shouldn't trump state law, finding "Father knowingly abandoned his parental responsibilities in every respect."

Lawyers for Dustin Brown say, quote, "He is a good parent, and Veronica is healthy, happy and thriving."

Since she went to live with her biological father, the Capobiancos say they have only been allowed to speak with her once.

MATT CAPOBIANCO: We told her we loved her, and she said, "I love you, too." And that was that.

MELANIE CAPOBIANCO: That was that.

KAYE: But Matt and Melanie haven't given up. They are taking their case to the United States Supreme Court.

MATT CAPOBIANCO: You don't ever stop fighting for your child. Ever.

KAYE (on camera): The United States Supreme Court doesn't take that many cases. They get 7,000 cases a year, and they take about 80.

MELANIE CAPOBIANCO: Yes.

KAYE: Why do you think they should take this one? MATT CAPOBIANCO: So many families have been hurt by the, you know, misuse of this law. And you know, we've said before, too, we don't think it's necessarily a bad law with bad intention, but it's definitely being misused.

It doesn't apply. She wasn't removed from an existent Indian home. She was never in an Indian home. She was with us from the very beginning.

This is her room.

KAYE (voice-over): And in some ways, Veronica is still with them. Her bedroom is still set up.

(on camera) I look around and I see her toys and her books and her little cook set.

MELANIE CAPOBIANCO: It makes it harder, but taking it away is the hardest.

MATT CAPOBIANCO: You know, this is her home. It will always be her home, but she's going to come home. She's going to play with her stuff again.

MELANIE CAPOBIANCO: It's a symbol of our hope that she's coming home.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Charleston, South Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: That is tough to watch. We're going to follow the court's decision very closely in the days ahead, and of course, we're going to bring it to you.

And still to come tonight, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton back at home after being hospitalized with a blood clot. And now there is word about when she's going to return to work, and we're going to have it for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 Bulletin."

Late word that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is battling severe lung infection and has respiratory insufficiency. That's according to the country's information minister. Chavez hasn't been seen publicly since he had cancer surgery in Cuba more than three weeks ago. He's scheduled to take the oath of office for a new six- year term in just a few days.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been out of the hospital for just about 24 hours now. She's continuing to recover at home from a blood clot in her head. The State Department says she's looking forward to getting back to the office and plans to return next week. And a terrifying ordeal on a partially frozen lake in Arizona. Two teens clung to a dead tree for roughly two frigid hours, waiting for rescuers to reach them. The ice started to crack after they ventured onto it. They were reportedly treated for mild hypothermia, a very close call.

And new jobless numbers will be out tomorrow morning, and financial analysts are expecting little change in the unemployment picture. Indeed many expect at best very slow improvement all year long. So some career counselors are urging their clients to do all they can to keep their present jobs, even as they prepare for what is hoped will be more opportunities later in the year.

Tom Foreman has tonight's "American Journey."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roughly 12 million Americans are without work, nearly five million for a half year or more. So career counselors across the country are starting 2013 with a clear message: keep hanging on.

ROSEMARY HAEFNER, VP, CAREERBUILDER.COM: It's a lot slower than we would all like. But, you know, it's incredibly competitive right now, whether you're working or not working. And I think that individuals who have the advantage of having employment right now should make sure they're taking full advantage of that.

FOREMAN: That, they say, means three things. First, ask for opportunity. Build your professional network inside and outside of your office. Workers who go unnoticed are often the first to go out the door.

DR. TRACEY WILEN-DAUGENTI, APOLLO RESEARCH INSTITUTE: They don't raise their hand. They don't raise their hand for the difficult projects. They don't ask for lateral moves. They don't ask for more responsibility. They don't join teams. These are things that companies look for, for people for the longer haul.

FOREMAN: She works for the Apollo Research Institute, which promotes further education. And that's what many job advisers say is the second key: take advantage of every training opportunity.

HAEFNER: Good times or tough times, you always should be looking at how you're going to be developing growing your skills. Whether for your current employer or your current position, or perhaps it's something, you know, down the road.

FOREMAN: And lastly...

Unlike the unhappy guys in the movie "Office Space," embrace all sorts of technology.

WILEN-DAUGENTI: By the year 2020, over 75 percent of jobs will have a technology component. And I think that's very important for people to understand for longevity and for employment in the future. FOREMAN (on camera): Staying employed this year will be easier to n some fields than in others, of course. For example, jobs in health care and business services like sales are expected to be plentiful.

(voice-over) And, as 2013 goes on, the job market is predicted to pick up steam, setting the stage for better days in the next new year.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: We'll be right back with "The RidicuList."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Tonight, No. 2 on the 2012 "RidicuList" countdown, and this one has got Jimmy Kimmel, so take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Time now for "The RidicuList." I don't know if you're aware of this, but there have been some cases on this show where I've had some trouble and haven't been able to stop laughing, particularly when certain kinds of words come up, words just as an example, like "titmouse" or "asphalt." You know, really high- brow stuff.

I can only hope that we never do a "RidicuList" about the French novelist Henri de Balzac.

Look, I'm not proud of it, but I can't help it. I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old. Well, Jimmy Kimmel has a theory. Watch this from "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC'S "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": This is from AC 360, Anderson Cooper's show on CNN. At the end of the show Anderson does a thing called the "RidicuList." I guess to end things on a light-hearted note. It tickled Mr. Cooper, to say the least.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the girl is striking back with a tap from a pussywillow branch.

COOPER: (LAUGHTER) I don't think I can do this. I'm sorry. (LAUGHTER)

I've got to let it out.

KIMMEL: I think Anderson Cooper is high. How else do you explain that?

The word "pussywillow" is not that funny. No word is that funny. Nothing has ever been that funny. I like to see drug tests all around. And get a sample from Wolf Blitzer while you're at it. He's starting to look like the guy on the Zigzag packet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: All right. First, let's see the Zigzag packet of which Mr. Kimmel speaks. All right. Yes. There might be a slight resemblance. I can sort of see that. The Zigzag guy might look a little bit younger. It's hard to tell. He is a drawing, after all.

So I was talking to Jimmy earlier about this speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, a speech, by the way, that did, indeed, include a section of pot jokes, and I asked him about his story off my "RidicuList" outburst. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Let me get this straight. The man who started badgering the president of the United States about legalizing marijuana, you're accusing me of being high?

KIMMEL: I'm not accusing. I'm just trying to explain that fit. I mean, maybe you're secretly Anderson Snooper or something, Anderson Coop Dogg we've got going there. I would love to believe that you're high right now. I really would.

COOPER: Did you smoke before you went on the stage?

KIMMEL: Not before.

COOPER: Not before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, they say the White House Correspondents Dinner is nerd prom. Is there a stoner prom? Jimmy Kimmel would probably get high-fives galore at stoner prom. That is, if anyone remembered to show up. Until then, we'll always have the "RidicuList."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: You can see your pick for No. 1 tomorrow night. And that does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching, everyone. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.