“Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the site of the 2012 shooting that killed 20 children and six adults, has been rebuilt by architects Svigals + Partners to incorporate the latest anti-terror measures,” dezeen.com reports. “Working alongside the traumatised community of Newtown, Svigals + Partners designed the outside of the school to include a long walkway through a rain garden, intended to help the school ‘deter, detect and delay’ potential intruders.” Yes, well, for how long?
On December 14, 2012, at 9:35:30 a.m., someone from Sandy Hook Elementary School called the Newtown police to report an active shooter.
After an on-scene delay, two officers from the Newtown Police Department entered Sandy Hook Elementary, some ten minutes after the station received the call, at 9:45 a.m.
The officers made entry after Adam Lanza had killed himself, approximately 15 minutes after the shooting had started. Neither the Newtown nor State police fired a shot during or after the Sandy Hook slaughter.
Would the new school’s long walkway delay an active shooter 14 minutes? Ten minutes? Five? Would that be enough to prevent homicides? Those questions assume there’d be one attacker, on foot, with a gun, attacking in one direction, from one direction.
“Good buildings should prevent unwanted intrusions of any kind,” Jay Brotman, managing partner of Svigals + Partners, told Dezeen.
“This approach leads us to explore how to keep intruders from gaining access from a building, often with layouts that reduce visibility from the street and direct traffic flow strategically in ways that allow potential threats to be detected early,” he continued.
Meanwhile, the inside of the school is made to maximise escape routes – classrooms are situated far away from likely points of entry, and face towards a woodland, granting easy access to alternative exits. Each classroom is also equipped with locks and security doors.
So much fail.
– Reduced visibility from the street into the school means less chance that someone outside the school will detect a problem inside the school.
– Detecting malevolent traffic flow (i.e., bad guy/guys walking) is not the same as stopping the threat.
– Doors designed to prevent unwanted intrusions can also be used by terrorists to prevent “unwanted” police “intrusion.”
– Easy access out of a classroom is also easy access into a classroom.
– Locks and security doors can be breached.
– The more potential entry points, the more difficult it is to monitor any one entry point.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad the new Sandy Hook’s been hardened against an attack. Several of the new school’s features are straight out of the post-Newtown National School Shield –the now-forgotten NRA program offering a common sense, comprehensive approach to defending school children against armed attack.
Equally important, the new Sandy Hook Elementary’s design shows that the community is taking student safety seriously and, perhaps, changing their official response to an active shooter. (Here’s hoping the kids are taught to disperse into the woods rather than shelter in a closet.) But I’m afraid all these measures are little more than more security theater.
While it’s not strictly true that a good guy with a gun is the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, a good guy with a gun is certainly the most effective and immediate solution to an active shooter or terrorist attack. Sandy Hook and its designers acknowledge this fact by trying to build in delays that allow the good guys with guns to arrive before it’s too late.
Unfortunately, it’s mission impossible. Sandy Hook’s new set-up assumes a similar style attack as the one the community suffered at the hands of Adam Lanza. A committed group of terrorists — such as the murderers responsible for the Beslan school massacre — would make short work of the school’s defenses and the responding cops.
In fact, there’s no way the school’s architects could or even should create a structure “able to withstand unwanted intrusions of any kind.” That would require far more money than even Newtown’s well-heeled burghers could provide, and produce a finished building that would resemble nothing so much as Hitler’s French bunker.
The relative expense of the new “hardened” Sandy Hook Elementary school should not be downplayed. There are tens of thousands of American schools which would be lucky to afford new locks on rickety old doors, never mind clean-sheet defensive architecture. Armed staff are these students’ only hope of an effective counter for an active shooter or shooters — at least until the police arrive.
Armed teachers, administrators, staff and/or parents are the simplest, cheapest and most effective defense against a school shooter or shooters. Period. Even watchful police and armed guards — who may or may not still be on site at Sandy Hook — aren’t as valuable an asset. Cops and guards are easily identified and, let’s face it, frequently bored and thus unwary targets.
As I’ve written numerous times, Bush the Elder’s Gun Free School Zone Act must be repealed — a promise that candidate Trump made to supportive crowds (and hasn’t mentioned once since his election). Local and state laws prohibiting law-abiding Americans from exercising their gun rights inside the school gates must also be struck down.
It blows my mind that our political system prohibits the simplest, most obvious, least expensive and most practical defense against school shooters: armed teachers, staff and parents. It’s a thought that occurs to me every single morning I drop my daughter off at school.