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December 19, 2012

Newtown massacre leads to security assessments nationwide

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

At Armstrong Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., teacher Sharon Burns began circulating a petition asking for security doors on classrooms. In the District of Columbia, a parent of a student at Deal Middle School asked why her daughter had never participated in a lockdown drill.

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell called for a review of safety practices at all of the state's schools and a series of other initiatives to examine such issues as funding, threat assessments and emergency plans.

"I don't think we need to throw away the playbook on school safety, but we need to make sure best practices are being implemented," said Kenneth Trump, a school security consultant.

Trump said the deep concern that prevailed immediately after the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School has diminished. "The conversation and the training that we have today is not at the same level of consistency and intensity," he said.

Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, a nonprofit that has developed safety plans for thousands of schools, said districts are likely to feel pressure to upgrade security, as they did after Columbine and later at Virginia Tech.

"There's a shift from concern to panic, if you will, and you have parents pushing to do something to improve safety," Dorn said.

Access to schools is a central issue, Dorn said, noting that less than 10 percent of schools around the country have strong access control, with locked entries, buzzers, protective laminated glass and camera or intercom systems.

"We have school districts that are incredibly good at this stuff, impressive and advanced," Dorn said. "One district has a gun safe with a tactical gun and a police officer there all day. Other districts are way behind."

Another big issue is training, many experts agreed.

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