Connecticut school could not have prevented shooting, experts say

Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:04am EST

A woman prays at Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire on school children and staff in Newtown, Connecticut December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

A woman prays at Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire on school children and staff in Newtown, Connecticut December 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott

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(Reuters) - U.S. school districts have spent millions of dollars on metal detectors, security cameras and elaborate emergency-response plans since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, but almost nothing could have prevented Friday's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, security experts say.

A 20-year-old, heavily armed gunman opened fire Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six adults before taking his own life, police said.

"The school could not have stopped it without prior knowledge that he was coming," said Bill Bond, a school safety specialist and former high school principal who had a deadly student shooting on his watch.

Unlike the shooting at Columbine in Colorado, where two students killed other 12 students and a teacher, the gunman in Newtown was not a student, but an adult from the community.

"This is going to go down as a school shooting, but it's exactly what happened in Aurora," said Bond, referring to the mass shooting by a lone gunman at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado last July that left 12 dead and 58 wounded.

"That was a movie theater, this was a school," he added.

Bond was the principal of Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, where on December 1, 1997, a student opened fire on a morning prayer circle, killing three.

He retired in 2000 and now works with other principals and students as a school safety specialist with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

"We equate school shootings with students killing other students," Bond said.

It is still unclear what kind of security measures the school routinely took, but media reported that access was limited to visitors and doors were locked after 9:30 a.m. The shooting is believed to have happened soon after that time.


Still, Bond said, there is no way for students and teachers to protect themselves when someone begins shooting with a weapon. He said even a security guard and locked doors could not have stopped the killer.

Without knowing the school's security system, Kenneth Trump, president of consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services, stresses that schools need to be "looking for these lone wolf actors."

"As a father, I would love to have a 100 percent guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen in my kids' school, but as a rational school safety professional I know nobody can give me a 100 percent guarantee on safety," said Trump.

But he has seen the danger drop at schools in the wake of Columbine. Dozens of shootings have been thwarted by students, teachers and principals sharing information and warning about students with weapons or plans to kill.

"There was a substantial amount of progress in the months and years after Columbine in prevention, security and emergency preparedness in our schools," said Trump. "A lot of those measures have become part of the school culture."

But he worries about maintaining that culture in the future because of budget constraints. As the risk of violence has increased because of the stress inflicted by the struggling economy, the time and funding allocated to these prevention and safety programs have declined.

"There has been an increased competition for time and money, and school safety has been losing on both accounts," said Trump.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Simon in Boston; edited by Mary Milliken and; Todd Eastham)

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Comments (6)
katieo14 wrote:
what about a school security system where you need to swipe the card for access ????????? that would have prevented this… you sound so dumb when you state nothing could have prevented this……if someone could not just walk in how could they bring guns in and just start firing…. I paid a fortune for my boys to attend a small elementary school where they had keyed access and a camera to view who was ringing the bell for access. it’s the only way to go. I paid a fortune, not for a better education but for security…..every parent should demand it…let’s put money in to school security systems and forget about added red lights.

Dec 15, 2012 9:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:
If no one knows yet what security measure were in place, how can any “expert” claim nothing could be done?

Why don’t you try this story again when someone knows something?

Dec 15, 2012 10:48am EST  --  Report as abuse
amibovvered wrote:
So, the current version of what happened avers that the apparently lone gunman got into the school by breaking a window. Was there even a basic alarm system designed for this contingency? If so, why was it not working?

Dec 15, 2012 10:56am EST  --  Report as abuse
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