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Jan 13 2015

Lawsuit Filed Over Lax School Security

Category: News,School SecurityLori @ 10:26 am Comments (10)

In today’s news…

Sandy Hook Families Sue Newtown, Schools, Citing Lax Security – Hartford Courant

At least two families of victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have filed a lawsuit against the town of Newtown and the school board, alleging lax security on the day 20 first-graders and six adults were shot and killed.

The 66-page lawsuit was given to a state marshal on Dec. 14, the last day under state statutes that legal action could be taken against the community, and recently served at the town clerk’s office.


Sandy Hook families sue Newtown, schools, citing lax security – Chicago Tribune

Among the allegations is that Sandy Hook Elementary School had security policies and procedures in place that teachers weren’t able to follow on the day of the killings. Classroom doors could only be locked from the outside with keys, leaving teachers vulnerable to intruders, and the front of the school didn’t have security glass to protect against gunshots, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges a teacher in one of the two classrooms where students were killed was a substitute, didn’t have a key and didn’t receive training on the security protocols.


Estates of Sandy Hook students sue town, board of education – WTNH

The plaintiffs’ attorney released a statement.

“We are hopeful that the Town of Newtown’s elected and hired representatives will work with these families, who have already suffered, and continue to suffer, unimaginable loss, to help resolve this matter in the most efficient and constructive way possible,” said Donald Papcsy in the statement. “As residents of the town, we all either have, or are going to have, students in our Sandy Hook schools, and we promote the idea of learning from the past and protecting our children in the future.”

Papcsy says the jurisdiction lawsuit is for $15,000 in damages, the minimum amount to file a lawsuit for this type of case.


Sandy Hook Lawsuit: Newtown Families Seek Better School Security – International Business Times

The lawsuit describes what the plaintiffs perceive as security lapses and specifically alleges that a substitute teacher had no “knowledge of the … safety procedures and security protocols rehearsed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in case an intruder or other dangerous individual gained access to the school.” On Dec. 14, 2012, gunman Adam Lanza entered the school through doors near the schools main offices and, after killing the principal and school psychologist, entered two classrooms full of students, one of which the substitute teacher was unable to lock because she didn’t have a key.

The lawsuit also charges the town with being negligent in not having bulletproof glass on the school’s front windows, in having doors that can’t be locked from the inside, and in a lack of parking lot security, where Lanza parked his car less than 100 feet from the school entrance. 


Sandy Hook families file lawsuit against Newtown, school board – WFSB

WFSB 3 Connecticut


Your thoughts?  Will this lawsuit result in better security for new and existing schools?

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10 Responses to “Lawsuit Filed Over Lax School Security”

  1. John Rein, AHC says:

    Hopefully these lawsuits will result in better security for public spaces, as the fire tragedies of the past lead to improved fire safety. The cost for improved security is minimal as compared to the benefit. I recall hearing that there has been no loss of life in public buildings due to a fire in code compliant buildings. Hopefully tragedies like Sandy Hook will someday be eliminated.

  2. Jerry Richmond, AHC/CDC says:

    Tragic as the situation is, the lawsuit was inevitable. The plaintiffs also sued the weapon manufacturer, and this always puzzles me… how is the gun manufacturer at fault? (By the way, I am not a gun owner, or member of the NRA.) It was Mr. Lanza’s “fault” 100% and not the fault of society, his upbringing, the town, the school district, the main entry doors, etc. Something wrong clicked in this guy’s head to act as he did and until something actually happens, there is not a lot we can do in a free society. Heck, until recently, I’ll bet everyone reading this post was a fan, like me, of Bill Cosby, then all of a sudden, we find out unacceptable behavior and conduct by the beloved “Coz”. The point is, most of us had no idea of what Mr. Cosby was allegedly doing, and the same applies to these “troubled” or “unstable” individuals, such as Mr. Lanza, who commit these horrendous crimes.

    The suit refers to the lack of training and the lack of bullet resistive glass among other things. I do agree that the substitute teacher should have been advised/trained on emergency protocol, absolutely! It was just unfortunate luck for the events to unfold as they did. Our firm has supplied bullet “resistive” doors and frames (glass by others) at school vestibules over the last few summers, but we are talking a very small percentage of schools in general. After a tragedy has occurred, everyone seems willing to spend money on security upgrades, but oh boy, before a tragedy, they sing a different tune when told that their school taxes will be raised because of a “probability”! And there is a reasonable limit to precautions taken. Let’s not forget some 15, or so, years ago, when two kids had a student accomplice pull the fire alarm in a school and as students and faculty exited the building, the two kids outside shot at them, killing a female teacher. I think it was in Kentucky, but anyway, emergency protocol, “intruder” function locksets, security cameras, electric hardware, bullet resistive openings, etc… all meaningless in that type of situation.

    If the suit remains as $15,000, then it’s fair to say that the plaintiffs are not seeking financial gain and it’s a small “cattle prod” to initiate action and bravo to the plaintiffs for that. But, if the suit is a minimum of $15,000, just to be “worthy” of a spot on the court docket, then I find issue with that. No amount of money changes the event, or eases the pain of what happened at Sandy Hook.

    As an Industry, and as caring people, we need to stay the course and continue to specify and promote top quality door openings, within budget and within reason, and train school staff on diligence and protocol. Beyond that, we can only hope that our children make it through the school day and return home safely. I remember the “good old days” when the biggest fear was of the class “bully” because I was a skinny kid back then. Seems almost trivial to today’s armed murderers.

  3. Mojo says:

    What level of bullet-resistance is sufficient to stop all possible threats?

    I’ve just completed writing a specification for Level 5 bullet-resistant glass at an emergency room addition to an existing hospital. Overall nominal thickness of glass to meet “UL 752, Level 5, 7.62mm, one shot” will be between 1-1/2 inches to 2 inches. How many school districts can afford to install / retrofit glass at all entrances?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Morriss –

      I know finding glass that would provide some level of protection but is not super-thick/heavy has been an issue. I’ve seen some new glass in the news lately, and have spoken to one of the founders of the company. It looks very promising. Here’s a link: Let me know what you think.

      – Lori

      • Mojo says:

        This glass is very impressive in resisting attack. The door hardware would fail before an intruder could break through.

        Should we specify continuous hinges and hurricane-resistant exit devices to keep the door in place?

        • Lori says:

          I do like continuous hinges for a school entrance, but I don’t think you would need hurricane-resistant panic hardware. A good rim panic or a pair of rim panics with a removable mullion should hold up well.

      • Jon says:


        Here are some excerpts that form the basis for a “level of protection” that addresses the cost associated with retrofitting existing schools for security purposes.

        Homeland Security – Office of Science and Technology – FEMA-428 “Primer to Design Safe School Projects in Case of Terrorist Attacks and School Shootings”

        “The basic approach to site security design promoted in this primer is the concept of layers of defense… mutually independent… each layer is designed to delay and disable the attack as much as possible… giving the building occupants more time to evacuate to a safe area… [which] allows response forces more time to arrive on the scene to neutralize the threat or reduce casualties.”

        From this perspective the list of security options becomes a bit more flexible than resorting to high cost ballistic resistant glazing. Assuming the required “level of protection” is to delay the intruder instead of stopping bullets. Consider this:

        The first count in the lawsuit claims that, “The Defendant… failed to provide the SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL with a secure front entrance, leaving a non-security glass window with measurements of nearly three (3) feet wide by four (4) feet high directly next to the locked doors of the school; essentially rendering the locking of the school doors at the outset of the school day irrelevant and impotent in the effectuation of the school lock-down plan…”.

        In a nutshell the security system components were not consistent with the security plan IE; the intruder’s method of assault (surprise) took advantage of system design flaw leaving his victims no time initiate their lawfully required response.

        So how do we employ a layer of defense that delay’s an intruder’s entry to a building or room thru a large window and/or access to the internal lock mechanism?

        You posted something a while back that referenced a security consultant by the name of Paul Fiel. Mr. Fiel suggested the use of stainless steel wire mesh as a viable component that could delay or deter an intrusion in some cases. I believe his suggestion has merit.

        Here’s a link to a video that illustrates the application of stainless steel wire mesh to an existing building. Watch closely thru the second half of the video.

        • Lori says:

          Thanks for the video. It reminded me that I have a photo of the mesh from a local school. I will write a post and try to get some feedback.

  4. R Glenn says:

    No amount of money, physical security measures, or training will give 100% safety and security. We must be reasonable in our expectations and accept a certain amount of risk in this world.

  5. RB Sontag, AHC, CDC, FDAI says:

    First, let’s all agree that the Lawsuit was inevitable. That’s the nature of the Reactive World in which we live. Someone must have made a mistake that caused injury and/or loss of life. So, lets file suit and make them pay.

    I believe that we, as an industry do a poor job of training the occupants/staff on how to functionally operate the products we specify and supply at their facilities for their protection. I’m aware of several School District that require us to specify the Security Classroom function locks on every classroom and/or rooms in which students occupy. But then these end users fail to instruct the teaching staff on why this function is supplied and how to properly operate this locking device. This means that during a true emergency this lock function is not used as designed. Instead the staff keep their doors locked at all time’s with the door wedged open or unlocked at all times with no clue as to the fact that the lock can be locked from the inside with a key. If we truly want to have a lasting impact on school safety with minimal or nominal cost, we must do a better job of training our End User’s Staff. Training is one of the keys to protecting lives and keeping occupants safe.

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