By Paul Caron, CNN
(CNN) – When Alissa Parker first heard there was a shooting at her 6-year-old daughter’s school, she immediately thought of the building’s security weaknesses and wished she’d spoken up.
“Knowing the location of where Emilie’s classroom was, if anyone gained access to that building, I knew that my child was very vulnerable,” she said.
Parker’s daughter, Emilie, was among 20 first-graders killed in the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Six months since then, parents, school leaders and lawmakers around the country have raised questions about how to make schools more secure. Many schools reacted by immediately increasing security personnel and hiring consultants to assess their security plans. An Education Week analysis found nearly 400 bills related to school safety filed in the months after the deadliest K-12 school shooting in U.S. history; legislators proposed arming teachers and adding guards or police officers. Many proposed shoring up the security of school buildings.
Parker and other Sandy Hook parents started the Safe and Sound, an initiative to help communities improve their school security plans.
As parents gathered information after the shooting, they realized schools all over the country are vulnerable, said Michele Gay, whose 7-year-old daughter, Josephine, was also killed at Sandy Hook.
“One line of defense is all they had, and once that is penetrated, anything can happen. That is the problem with most schools,” Gay said. “We are about empowering folks … gathering everybody at the table – local police, fire, custodians, teachers and when appropriate, students. Everyone needs to be at the table to make it work.”
After the Sandy Hook shootings, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed new gun regulations into law and created the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, a 16-member public safety panel set to make recommendations about school safety, mental health and gun violence.
In its preliminary recommendations, the commission suggested:
– Requiring that all K-12 classrooms be equipped with doors that can be locked from the inside by the classroom teacher.
– Requiring that all exterior doors in K-12 schools be equipped with hardware capable of a full-perimeter lockdown.
– Creating a panel of design and security experts to establish, within 12 months, recommendations for safe design.
But what might make those buildings safer?