Newtown Panel Recommends Significant School Security Changes

Sandy Hook Advisory Commission’s recommendations include adopting the all-hazards approach; teacher, staff and student training, door lock changes and more.

The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has unanimously approved a 256-page report released Thursday that proposes many improvements to school security.

The report does not take into consideration cost of the proposed improvements, although the commission “does not believe that any of its recommendations are fiscally impossible or unachievable.” It also notes that safety and security improvements have long-term benefits.

The report proposes the following changes to school safety and security:

  • Adopt the all-hazards approach. The report recommends schools should address a broad range of potential risks, in addition to active shooters. “…the Council determined that school safety infrastructure planning should be based on an all- hazards assessment, and that school design safety standards should encourage the use of protective infrastructure design features in all levels or layers of school facility construction including: Site development and preparation; Perimeter boundaries and access points; Secondary perimeters up to the building exterior; and the interior of the building itself.” Assessments should involve police, fire, medical, school and other local officials.
  • Safety and security improvements should enhance rather than diminish students’ educational experience.

RELATED: Sandy Hook Advisory Commission: Info on Lanza Should Have Been Shared


  • Improvements should enhance situational awareness so that teachers, staff and students can observe early changes in a student’s or adult’s behavior that might be a cause for concern. The report also noted however, that such changes might “also provide opportunities for the aggressor to acquire their target. School designs must therefore provide the means for students, teachers, and staff to maintain visual control over their environment and close off sight lines once a perceived threat is identified.”

  • Schools must create a safe climate, providing teachers with training on student character building, student responsibility and anti-bullying. The report notes that violence prevention requires better communication between parents, students, teachers, and administrators.  Additionally, parents should be involved with their children to prevent a sense of isolation and breakdown in communication. “Respectful, collaborative relationships between and among parents and teachers; teachers and administrators; teachers and students; administrators and the community including law enforcement, first responders, and mental/behavioral health specialists are essential if we are to have greater situational awareness in creating a nonthreatening, accepting, inviting, information sharing and therefore safe environment,” the report says. “Staff, teachers and community members must feel comfortable referring a student whose behavior raises concern.”

  • Safety and security strategies must be tailored to the needs of each community and school. “Some districts have a large number of local police and public safety personnel who can respond to a major event at a school within a few minutes. Other districts are small, may have no local police department at all, and thus rely on State Police, making for potentially significantly longer response times. A community that faces longer response times may decide to undertake additional design and operational measures to delay a potential violent offender’s entry into a school or onto its grounds.”

  • School safety and security standards must be regularly reviewed and revised.

RELATED: 7 Lessons Learned from Sandy Hook


  • School safety and security must have “local champions.” “Each community or school district should have a small standing committee or commission, comprised of individuals representing the school community, law enforcement, fire, EMS and public health, whose responsibility is to ensure that the SSDO (Safe School and Design Operations) standards and strategies are actually implemented in their community.”

  • Classrooms and other safe-haven areas should have doors that can be locked from the inside.

  • All campus exterior doors should be equipped with hardware that can implement a full perimeter lockdown.

  • Additional safety standards should be developed regarding the issuance of classroom keys to substitute teachers.

  • School custodians should be included in the campus safety and security committees.

  • “Teachers, administrators and custodians should be appointed to school security and safety committees with the consent and approval of other employees of their same classification.”

  • Campuses must maintain an accurate list of faculty, staff and students, complete with emergency contact information that includes parents and guardians of students. The information must be kept at two locations within each school known by appropriate school staff and the emergency response teams for that school.

  • Each school should train faculty, staff and students on how to respond to safety and security hazards. Training should include live exercises. “These training programs and exercises shall also include the identification and use of rendezvous points, escape routes, location of safe havens, the means of emergency communication and the role of faculty, staff, emergency responders, etc.”

  • Each campus should identify safety and security wardens responsible for training.

  • Classrooms and other areas with greater population density should be located away from entry points.

The report also called for firearm permitting and more resources for mental health treatment, as well as covered HIPAA and student privacy and disaster recovery.

Read the report.

Photo Safe Havens International, Rachel Wilson

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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