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School safety: learning from what Sandy Hook did right

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And yet a gunman was still able to shoot his way into the school and kill 26 people, 20 of them children, before turning his gun on himself.

“This is simply a reminder of how vulnerable schools continue to be,” says Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center in Westlake Village, Calif. “Despite some of our best efforts at making schools safe, when you’re dealing with a committed assailant it’s extremely difficult to stop [the attack].”

That said, Mr. Stephens and others agree that there’s still a lot schools can do to be safer – many of them the procedures Sandy Hook already had in place. And, they note, it’s possible that the loss of life at Sandy Hook would have been even worse had some of those procedures not been in place.

“Instead of asking, ‘Did nothing work?,’ another way of looking at it is, ‘Did some things work that could have prevented an even greater loss of life?’ ” says Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services in Cleveland.

Even the brief delay that resulted when the gunman had to shoot his way into the school rather than simply walking in may have helped, he says. And there are reports of teachers who instituted lockdown procedures, got kids out of hallways, and ran to try to stop the shooter, all of which may have saved some lives. And the response by law enforcement was very rapid.

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