Five Years After Newtown, School Security Hardens

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In a rural California classroom, more than a dozen 5- and 6-year-olds huddled in the corner as a gunman sprayed bullets and tried to break his way in. The doors were locked and all children were inside, part of a plan the staff and students had practiced in drills and knew by heart. They barricaded the school in just 47 seconds last month, probably saving the lives of countless people at Rancho Tehama Elementary School, the Washington Post reports. The near-flawless response to what could have been a bloodbath on Nov. 14 came almost exactly five years after 20 children and six teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct. That attack, which involved a mentally unstable man using an assault-style rifle, shattered the sense of security felt in the nation’s elementary schools.

Five years later, little about federal gun laws has changed. The Newtown shooting forever altered the way schools approach safety and assess risk. Schools feel vulnerable to the threat of shootings and students must know what to do in case one happens. School lockdowns and active-shooter training are as commonplace as fire drills. Buzzers and locks have fortified school doors that were once left wide open. The sight of police officers in elementary schools is common. Some districts allow staff members to carry weapons for what they believe is an added layer of security. “There was something about Sandy Hook,” said Telena Wright, superintendent of schools in Argyle, Tx., whose district has stepped up security. “It was such a massacre that I think it captured the attention of school employees and school administrators and police officers that work in schools across the nation.” The era of school lockdowns started in 1999, after two students killed 13 people and themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Co.

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