December 17th, 2012
04:30 AM ET

What really makes schools safer?

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - Sandy Hook Elementary School probably did everything right. Its staff and teachers worked every day to create a climate that valued kindness and posted the plan for all to see. They had lockdown drills that trained everyone to stay low and quiet in the event of an emergency. A security system introduced this year required visitors to ring a bell, sign-in and perhaps produce a photo ID. After 9:30 a.m., the doors were locked.

And now it's the home of the one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history. Twenty children dead and eight adults, including the shooter.

Those who know the world of school security are already predicting what comes next: A strong reaction - maybe an overreaction - by parents, schools and legislators who want to take action. Politicians will be elected on platforms of school safety. Vendors will turn up with technology and plans to sell. Schools will rewrite their crisis plans and run extra drills.

It happened after the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, and again after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.

And within a few months or years, it'll be back to cutting security budgets and fighting for time to train staff and teachers.

"The vast majority have a crisis plan on paper. It's much more common that we find those plans are collecting dust on the shelf and they're not a part of the culture or the practice," said Kenneth Trump, a school security consultant. "I don't believe we need to throw out the book of best practices on school safety. I think we do need to focus our resources, times and conversation back on the fundamentals."

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Filed under: Issues • School safety • School violence
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Joe LittleBear

    The Chinese have a parable: "Take a Tiger,...remove it's claws and will not be able to survive....nor defend itself...even against it's own kind...." Ronald Regan said: "Criminals PREFER unarmed takes the HAZARD out of their CHOSEN profession " Disarming law-abiding citizens only reduces them to sheep, at the mercy of wolves.....who will show them NO mercy... Budget cuts have reduced our police forces to the point that a Sheriff's Deputy has to be responsible for an area of ten to 25 square miles...When seconds count....a citizen has to depend on one's self to survive until the proper authorities can arrive to take charge of the situation...

    December 27, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  2. Rita Ora

    Great site. Lots of useful info here. I am sending it to several friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks on your effort!

    December 23, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  3. Tristen

    I agree with the NRA. We should put armed guards at every school. Bus drivers should carry guns as well. School counselors, who encounter crazy, stupid teens all day should also be strapped. Furthermore, I reserve the right to carry a gun 24/7 and pistol whip any child crying on an airplane, at the mall or at a restaurant I'm eating at. Drivers should carry guns so that we can shoot at each other when we get cutoff. A police officer should be deathly afraid of every citizen because 100% of us carry guns. At weddings, we should fire off 10 gun salutes to commemorate the occasion. When a kid is bullied at school, that kid should have a gun to use for protection. The bullies should also carry guns and then we'll have a good ole' western. Who cares about 20 dead elementary school children? If they had guns themselves, they could have fired back. Stupid kids.

    December 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  4. Amanda

    i think that we should put God back in schools, and for the people that come to america that has a different religion ,can still have their religion but respect ours to.

    “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands,one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all".

    December 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • murhunter

      You do realize that the 'Under God" Part was added in 1953, right? It wasn't originally in there. And there's no way that adding a prayer back in the schools would help at all, especially with the diversity of beliefs in this country as it is.

      December 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Tristen

      Unfortunately, this contributes almost nothing to the solution(s) of this complicated problem. Nothing at all.

      December 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  5. Murl

    It is not the guns it is the people. one could easily kill the same amount of people by other means

    December 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  6. nazer

    How good or bad the people if guns are in the hands of a bad person,there will be death,so,impose law that prevents civilians from acquiring guns as it does more damage than good because with guns you can hurt more people.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  7. Siviah H.

    Guns are not the problem its the people, guns are suppose to be used how it says in the 2nd Amendment, its not the guns that are bad, guns should not be blamed for a person's behavior.

    December 18, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • RV

      guns are indeed problem to soceity for a civilian. Police required guns. Country is already in the hands of gun morons our schools need good security system instead of arming teachers. Lot of weird mind set people.

      December 19, 2012 at 10:19 am |
      • ignatz

        your wrong there, if guns are outlawed then the cops shouldn't need them either. If you can't buy them and you honestly believe you would be safer without guns then no one needs guns. Period. Then you can outlaw knives because I can kill you quicker with my knife than i can with my gun. And if you don't believe that talk to a cop about it. If he is honest he will tell you that its true. The point is where are you going to stop? The problem is not being addressed. You can't cure a cold by cutting off your arm, even though the hand at the end of the arm was where the germs came from.

        December 21, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Johnny phd

      2nd amendment written when there were muskets and no American army was present at the time, so they wanted individuals have guns incase England came back. Learn, don't be ignorant, laws written in 1700s is different 2000s, Guns now can kill 50 people with ease, back then you were lucky to kill 1. Remember people used to Line up and just shoot at each other, muskets projectile bullets couldn't even hit someone 50 ft away

      December 19, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Oakspar77777

      RV and Johnny –

      You admit that police need guns. Why? Because criminals have guns. That didn't stop this tragedy because police cannot be everywhere.

      The colonist were encouraged to have guns because there was no government that could get there in time to protect them from an attack (neither army nor police). How is that different than above? In a well armed society, the lone gunman is always out gunned.

      Yes, guns back then were less efficient. They still killed lots of people. Cars didn't kill people, horses did (and it is a lot easier to blame a horse than a car). Horses also tend to be rather DUI proof. You cannot stop the progress of technology.

      Sure, the teacher could have a fine Kentuky Flintlock over her desk, but what if she misses the criminal with the modern guns (which could have just as easily been stolen from an ambushed police officer as his mother, purchased illegally on the street, or smuggled in from Mexico no matter how strict the laws). No, if the criminals have modern weapons (and they always well), then so must the citizens.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • murhunter

      Well the difference with guns is if you have a knife you'll would people, maybe kill a couple. With guns you're bound to get a death out of it.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Tristen

      So you support North Korea and Iran obtaining nuclear weapons then? Because nuclear weapons don't kill people, people kill people.

      On a macrocosmic scale, that's all these other countries want. The U.S. has nuclear weaponry so why shouldn't they? My neighbor has an AR-15, why shouldn't I? Nutty gun owners are selfish and hypocritical as long as they get to fire their deadly toys.

      December 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  8. Hearbrokenmom

    I think gun restrictions is not the solutions, instead of doing that maybe they need to invest more on security for our children, maybe put a huge steel gates with metal detectors in the entrance of the gates in every schools so that it will not be open for everybody. And then assign each gates with security guard who will check every visitors who will enter the premises. Like what we have in my school when i was on college in mla. And all viaiotrs need to leave their identifications at the gates ., they are very stricts but it made me feel more secured, I hope this tragedy will never happen again,im so sad about what happen to all those childrens and teacher who died. God bless them.

    December 18, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Hearbrokenmom

      I think gun restrictions is not the solutions, instead of doing that maybe they need to invest more on security for our children, maybe put a huge steel gates with metal detectors in the entrance of the gates in every schools so that it will not be open for everybody. And then assign each gates with security guard who will check every visitors who will enter the premises. Like what we have in my school when i was on college in mla. And all visitors need to leave their identifications at the gates ., they are very stricts but it made me feel more secured, I hope this tragedy will never happen again,im so sad about what happen to all those childrens and teacher who died. God bless them.

      December 18, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • RV

      I agree about secuirity. but an armed person weather he responsibleo r not always carried danger to socienty. Please understand this.

      December 19, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Tristen

      Then you'd better add armed guards at all schools. Then at all mall doors. Then at the gym. Then at the outdoor basketball courts. Then at everyone's houses.

      NRA nuts that tell gov't to stay out of their business are only too happy to ask the gov't to provide guards. Hypocrites. The NRA would have us militarize every school in the country. Why don't they just ask their members to stand guard at local schools with their legally acquired guns? Because many NRA members are fat slobs who drink beer waiting for unchallenging animals to stroll by their urine stained tents. Truth hurts.

      December 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  9. Makayla

    I think that the schools in amerca should have a phone in the room.I also think that they should bann guns, they should only be use in the army and for the police.

    December 18, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • RV

      Absolutely right .

      December 19, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Tiffany

      Even if one was to ban guns, one could still get their hands on it illegally if they really wanted the weapon. If you unarm a people, then the person or people with the illegal guns are even more of a threat because the unarmed citizens are like sitting ducks.

      December 23, 2012 at 1:39 am |
  10. Betty

    Everyone keeps talking about gun control and security, but that's only half the issue. Countries like Switzerland require every male to own a gun, but they have much lower violent crime rates than the United States does. If someone wants to kill a classroom of innocent children, they will find a way around stricter gun laws. We need to focus on why people want to commit these violent crimes. Removing the stigma of mental illness, conducting more research, and offering education and resources will hopefully help us prevent more crimes like these in the future, without infringing on the second amendment.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • RV

      You have no idea about swiss.

      December 19, 2012 at 10:20 am |
      • Tiffany

        And I suppose you do?

        December 23, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  11. JOSE--USMC-0311


    December 18, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Portland tony

      Ok security guard...By the time you unwrapped your sidearms, he'd have at least 5 rounds in the both of you. You can't expect parents to allow a couple of dudes making minimum wage to protect their kids!

      December 19, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • John H

      Guns in the schools are not the answer. If you are proposing 1 – 2 guards with guns in the schools, what are your plans for the school buses, playgrounds, youth centers? Armed escorts? Should we have Supper Max schools?
      There are plenty non lethal solutions to providing security. If there had been a can of mace or a tazer in the principles desk or secured in the class rooms the outcome of this may have been different without putting anyone in grave danger.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Tristen

      It hurts to read what you call "typing". Or "speaking".

      December 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  12. brianna

    i really fell so said this made me mad the gun killer
    should just went back home

    December 17, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  13. carter

    this has been a tragedy to all of use I'm in middle school and today like almost all school they made us be sure that school is safe. i won't forget that friday ever. something like this is tragic i lost my friend but not in this tip of way and it crushed me so i can fell the pain in a way of all the parents and families out there. some of the teachers should be trained to help the situation so the students will be safer. i wonder what happened to all the other students that made it do they jeu stay home and not go to school until after the holidays or even after the holidays i have lots of questions

    December 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  14. RickWUSA

    Wolf, been watching your reporting since the the 1st Gulf War. Great job so far on the school shooting coverage. But, yesterday Soledad went off reporting and giving her opinion about Gun Control, she needs to ask the questions and let the respondent answer, she was off base, again today this morning a CNN reporter again started asking about "Automatic Weapons and not Semi-Automatic Weapons, she reported the the shooter had "Automatic Weapons" referred to the weapon's magazines as "clips" most people who have an understanding about weapons know the magazine is not a clip. Please stay with the facts. It is very clear to me, the school should have provided an Armed Security Officer, like a retired Law Enforcement or Police Officer assigned to the schools. Why does it seem like the people in the area are shocked if a Police Officer is assigned to the school. In my area of the country we have had a Police Office/Law Enforcement Officer of some type in our schools and the metro area since the late 60s. It's a normal procure to have security at most schools, malls and movie theaters including special events, Why not protect your self from things you cannot control. The school district is responsible for this tragedy. Why are the dead teachers called heroes? They would have been better off alive to protect there students and assistance with the events as they happened, why did the school nurse hide for 4 hours in a closet, instead of helping the wounded and dying, she wasn't protecting the students cowering in a closet for 4 hrs.

    December 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Tristen

      You sir, are an imbecile.

      December 22, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  15. Christopher

    While I don't think that teachers should have guns, we need to improve the safety of our schools in case of emergency for the protection of both students and teachers. We can not allow for a repeat of this disaster.

    December 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  16. Brianna

    if i was there it whould it would be a diffeent thing

    December 17, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Tristen

      Yes, there would have been 27 dead people at the school.

      December 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  17. frankia

    I feel so sad I wish all this nonsence will stop right now sooner because I dont want this to hapen to me becaause I dont want this to happen so soon because I am still young and i still have to to take care of my little sister i really love her

    December 17, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Brianna

      me too

      December 17, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  18. Bryan

    Schools have always been a safe place for the community to share and come together. I think it is time that we bring back some of the positive values that the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) brought to schools during the 80s' and 90s. Helping families, and participating in the improvement of schools gave familes of the community a sense of pride and willingness to help each other. I fear that school communities have turned against each other over the years due to budget constraints and societal pressures that have direct impact on how our kids act.

    December 17, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  19. Michelle Quinn

    As Jamie Gumbrecht states in this article the school did everything right. I will take it a step further and say they did more than everything right. These teachers sacricied their lives for the children. So how can we prevent this from happening to our own children? The scariest part is not being able to answer that. As parents we are supposed to keep our children safe. How can we do that? More security? Gun control? Anything we can come up still leaves the possibility of not being enough.
    One thing I can say is "people have the right to bear arms" doesn't outweigh a parents right to protect their child; more importantly its not more important than a childs right to be alive.

    December 17, 2012 at 7:29 am |
  20. Rafael Borja

    With all the school shootings that has happened in the past, I wonder why US schools don't employ armed security guards like we do in the Phils.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:13 am |
    • Pete

      As a visitor to the Phils on a number of times I think that';s a great point. Good to have gun restrictions as in Oz but if you can't the Phils system seemed good. You could not even go into shops without being checked and that gave a feeling of safety. My heart bleeds for those affected by this tragedy. Hopefully something may now be done.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:23 am |
    • Brianna

      we should put cameras all over the school even out side the school
      every time they go to a speacial they should lock all dooors even out side in morning they should lock all of the back doors in keep the front door unlock unless there is a sectery in the office.
      i fell so said that this nonsence is stop right now!

      December 17, 2012 at 11:12 am |
      • frankia

        i really agree

        December 17, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  21. bushpoverty

    For starters 3 things will help -

    1 – Serious metal detectors at the entrance of every public building preventing entry if triggered by a firearm.
    2 – Stricter gun laws to own/aquire firearms, testing, age limits, limits of number of weapons and ammo permitted
    3 – Making it illegal for parents to teach children how to use/shoot a firearm

    December 17, 2012 at 4:48 am |
    • Chris

      More children are killed by drunk drivers per year than by firearms. Why not ban drunk driving. Oh yeah, it is illegal to drive drunk. Oh but people still do it. So new laws dont work..... For starters your a idiot.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:12 am |
      • David

        That awkward moment when it's impossible to prevent all crime... They arent saying it will make things perfect. All they're saying is that if you make it harder to get a gun in the first place, then that particular aspect of crime would happen less often. He isn't saying it's a cure all, but that it's a start. If someone wants a gun they will probably get it. But we can certainly agree that it should be a hell of a lot harder no?

        December 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
      • Tristen

        I wish they would ban you. I can't believe idiots are allowed internet access.

        December 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
      • Tristen

        In case it wasn't obvious, that comment was for you "Chris".

        December 22, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Tiffany

      Doing those things will prevent people from being safer. I think a better solution would be to have the peron who wants to possess a firearms liscense have a mental exam first. Even if one is not taught how to use a weapon, it's not hard to figure out.

      December 23, 2012 at 1:45 am |