How the Columbine shooting has impacted school safety 25 years later

Armed security, surveillance cameras and auto-lock doors are some safety measures schools have implemented

Dan Krauth Image
Friday, April 19, 2024
How the Columbine shooting has impacted school safety
Dan Krauth has details on how the Columbine shooting 25 year ago has shaped the approach to school safety.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- This weekend marks a solemn anniversary: 25 years since the mass shooting at Columbine High School.

It has changed many things for many people from the way schools are designed to the way warning signs are spotted.

"I'm living in a new normal," said 16-year-old Reem Khalifa, a New York City student and volunteer with New York Students Demand Action.

She wasn't born yet when Columbine happened but she was a kindergartener in New York City during the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, in middle school when a gunman opened fire in Parkland, and in high school for the tragedy in Uvalde.

"It's something I think about pretty often," Khalifa said. "It has caused me to have anxiety, on top of the amount of work I have to do in school and that should be my top priority," she said.

Her safety is something she thinks about every day.

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"I know in all of my classes - oh there's a closet there - we could all fit in there and could push the desks at the door and that's how we could stay safe," she said. "But we should never have to be in those positions in the first place."

Today, almost all schools do lockdown drills. Less than half of schools did 25 years ago.

Others have changed the way the buildings are designed by installing two sets of doors, automatic locks and surveillance cameras.

In New York City, they are in the process of hiring more school safety agents.

Some Long Island districts have decided to arm security guards with guns.

"It keeps me up at night as far as knowing we're doing everything we can to keep people safe," said Dr. Vito D'Elia, Superintendent of South Huntington Schools.

The superintendent hired armed guards to stand watch outside schools last year.

"It's going great because we've never had to use them," Dr. D'Elia said. "It's another layer of protection for our staff and students."

Students can't visibly see the armed guards, but the superintendent knows they are there.

"My heart cries every time we hear of a school shooting and the innocent lives, thinking those kids were at the breakfast table that morning and didn't make it home, that plays a big role in how I operate," he said.

School security expert and former officer John LaPlaca of Altaris Consulting Group said schools are safer than they were two decades ago. He said the number one thing all schools can do is spot the warning signs before violence happens.

"Which is education, anonymous reporting systems, threat assessment programs," LaPlaca said.


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