SUSSEX COUNTY, Del. - As Monday marked exactly three years since the horrific Newtown shooting, perhaps the biggest legacy is the massive growth of school security across the country, including on Delmarva.
The shooting took place on Dec. 14, 2012, when 20 children and six adults were shot and killed by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. Police said that Lanza killed his own mother, before heading to the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the shooting took place. Lanza turned the gun on himself as the police closed in.
Indian River School District Assistant Superintendent Mark Steele said the attacks hit especially hard.
"Just a heaviness," he said, describing what it felt like to drive through Newtown this past summer. "Sadness. That someone could just go in and shoot innocent children is just beyond me... You see in on TV. But when you see (the town) in person, it looks totally different. It looks like home."
In the three years since the attack, Steele said the district has spent "easily $1 million" toward security improvements. Those improvements include the purchasing of new cameras and swipe access pads by the exterior doors, and the hiring of an armed school safety monitor for every single school. The district also employs five armed school resource officers, which move from school to school.
"We have parents' most valuable asset," Steele said. "And most loved asset in our building. We have to protect them. We have to do whatever we can do to protect those students."
Steele said that security is all about "resistance," saying that the longer you can slow down the potential shooter, the fewer casualties there will be. Steele said that the Newtown shooting took place over a period of just four minutes. The response time for a School Safety Monitor is under 30 seconds, according to Steele.
Indian River is also in the middle of developing a brand new policy on interior doors. Steele said this policy would mandate that teachers lock the door behind them in the classrooms. Many teachers are taking this action already at Indian River schools.
At the Cape Henlopen School District, Administrator Ed Waples said changes have been made to the exterior doors, adding cameras and swipe access. Waples said that it is better to be safe, then sorry.
"It's the right thing to do," he said. "Because we're concerned about our children.. They have destinies and goals that they'd like to achieve. If we don't do this, then what may happen is that a tragedy will change everything. And people will be afraid."