Connecticut Shooting Highlights How Vulnerable Schools Still Are

As news leaked out that 24-year old Ryan Lanza went on a shooting spree at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school that left 27 people dead, including 20 children, memories of the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 and the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre have been dredged back up.

Despite all the legislation and procedures implemented to keep students safe from these incidents and to help law enforcement prevent them more efficiently, mass shootings have become an almost daily part of the U.S. news cycle. In mid-January, an Ohio high school student named T.J. Lane opened fire at Chardon High School, killing fellow student Daniel Parmertor, 16, and wounding four others.

Besides the Chardon shooting, there have been five other school shooting since the 1999 Columbine massacre and this does not include the almost countless number of other mass shooting including the one earlier this week at an Oregon mall that left two people dead.

“Generally schools are so cautious about these things now,” said Steve Handelman, the director for the Center on Media, Crime & Justice at John Jay College. “This is not just a problem here in the U.S., but around the globe.”

Handelman added that it was still too early to make too many judgments about the shooting given that the situation is still very fluid and all the information has not been released.

Following the Columbine shooting in 1999, a number of schools across the country implemented safety measures in an attempt to prevent, or at least lessen the impact of a school shooting. Many politicians also took up the cause of stricter gun laws in the U.S.

Some schools required their students to wear computer-generated IDs, other beefed up their security with metal detectors, clear backpacks and guards at the doors.

Early last decade, the U.S. Secret Service conducted a study in which they found that zero-tolerance policies and metal detectors "are unlikely to be helpful," but that the best way to prevent a mass shooting is to identify the troubled shooter before he/she can turn the gun on people.

“Students who engaged in school-based attacks typically did not "just snap" and then engage in impulsive or random acts of targeted school violence,” the report entitled the School Safety Initiative stated.  “Instead, the attacks examined under the Safe School Initiative appeared to be the end result of a comprehensible process of thinking and behavior: behavior that typically began with an idea, progressed to the development of a plan, moved on to securing the means to carry out the plan and culminated in an attack.”

Along with prevention measures and zero-tolerance policies, schools have also almost universally adopted lockdown strategies to minimize casualties if a shooting were to occur. Much like the classic fire drill, students practice following directions, getting into classrooms and more or less waiting.

Some security experts, however, are now warning that this strategy may lead to more deaths and that students should adopt a policy in which they fight back.

"We've conditioned them to go sit in a corner, go sit under a table,” said Greg Crane, a former teacher and SWAT officer, according to NPR. "Ultimately, they're going to be the ones experiencing this danger, and we want them to be the ones to decide, 'What is it that I can do that will increase my chance of survival?'"

Crane added that he teaches students to make decisions like barricading classroom doors and that he has taught his tactics to children as young as kindergartners – the same age as those killed in the Connecticut shooting.

From the people in the town where the massacre occurred – much like those years ago in Columbine and Blackburg - the sentiment seemed to be shock and disbelief that something like this could occur in their midst.

“Newtown is a quiet town. I'd never expect this to happen here. It's so scary. Your kids are not safe anywhere," said Lisa Bailey, a Newtown resident with three children in Newtown schools, according to local media.

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