On Dec. 14, in the small town of Newton, Conn., a horrific tragedy was beginning to unfold.
Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old resident of Newton, was about to go on a killing spree that would take a total of 26 lives, 20 of which were children between the ages of 6 and 7.
Following the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Carmel Unified School District responded by sending an email to all students and parents explaining that current procedures exist which prevent violence on campus, including the “monitoring and supervision of student common areas and school visitors.”
However, despite the safety precautions put into place, many administrators throughout the district seem to have to come to a consensus that it is impossible to completely protect against violent intruders.
“When looking at Sandy Hook, you can’t help but notice that they had protocols and established safety procedures,” CHS Principal Rick Lopez says. “That is the scary thing about events like these. If somebody has the intent to commit harm, it is difficult to stop.”
Carmel River Elementary School Principal Jay Marden agrees with Lopez.
“Kids are our precious resource, and we would love to say that they are 100% protected. However, it is naïve to think that somebody cannot come onto campus and cause an awful lot of damage,” Marden says. “If a person is so inclined, and mentally unbalanced, they will shoot their way in or jump over fences. You just have to try and lock it down the best you can.”
Despite the thorough security policies at Sandy Hook, Lanza was able to arm himself with his mother’s firearms, shoot his way past the locks, and enter the school.
In the realization that it is impossible to completely eradicate the danger of a hostile intruder, Carmel’s district officials are trying to determine the most efficient way to lock down all campuses.
Rick Blanckmeister, the CUSD chief business officer, is working closely with the reviewing of district lockdown policies.
According to Blanckmeister, the district has hired an outside consultant who has expertise in school safety planning. This consultant reviews the district’s plans and procedures on an on-going basis to ensure corresponding schools are implementing the best practices and the latest strategies.
Blanckmeister says the consultant has met with administrators across all campuses in attempts to standardize lockdown policies throughout the district. Current lockdown policies include supplying each district classroom with a copy of emergency response directions, color-coded policy cards that describe instructions and responses in the case of multiple emergencies.
In the event of a lockdown at CHS, teachers must display a green or red card in the window of a classroom to indicate whether all students are accounted for or if a student is injured or missing.
Another standardized policy orders students to remain in lockdown until a law enforcement officer gives a verbal “all clear” and opens the door to each individual classroom.
Lopez is hopeful that CHS can better prepare the school community for disaster by participating in more realistic lockdown drills.
“CHS is seeking ways in which we can partner with the Monterey County Sherriff’s Department in order to collaborate and practice lock down drills,” Lopez says. “That way, if a real lockdown were to ever occur, it would not be new for students or law enforcement.”
Blanckmeister notes that it is likely that the Sherriff’s Department will coordinate lockdown drills with a deputy assigned to the district.
Nonetheless, many administrators are afraid of extreme changes to the current lockdown policy, which may detract from concentration or cause unnecessary fear in the learning environment.
“I am worried that the pendulum might shift too far,” Marden says. “To what extent do you go to provide protection and a false sense of security, if it results in teaching our kids to be fearful and raise them with a real fear-based mentality?”
Tularcitos Elementary Principal Ryan Peterson agrees, commenting, “Events like these are not something elementary students need to know about. It is beyond their comprehension.”
The tragedy at Sandy Hook is just one of many school shootings which have occurred in the U.S. in the past decade.
Since the 1999 Columbine massacre, where 12 students and one teacher were killed, there have been 26 school shootings in the U.S. resulting in either serious injuries or fatalities. In 2012 alone, seven school shootings took place.
These statistics point to the reality that attacks on schools have become more common in American culture.
“Anybody can jump over a fence and wreak havoc on a campus if they want to. This idea is what society is uncomfortable with,” Marden says. “It is important that the district strikes a balance between sensible security and a productive learning environment.”
shoul� r���dding that his opinion on this issue isn’t influenced by theSandy Hook shooting.
“I don’t think that Americans should have assault rifles,” Polovneff says. “Why does the reasonable American need one? That said, I don’t think it’s the gun that kills people; I think it’s people that kill people. I don’t think that restricting weapons would stop anything because if someone wants to hurt other people, they’re going to do it regardless.”
Junior Alyssa Knapp disagrees. While she says she believes new gun laws should be in place, she doesn’t feel her opinion was influenced by Sandy Hook.
“What [that shooting] really did was make it all the more obvious: we need to start restricting guns.”