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Five years after Sandy Hook: What has changed, what has not

Nicole Villalpando

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., at Sandy Hook Elementary, when 20 students and six school employees were killed by shooter Adam Lanza.

It has changed what happens in our schools. Students now do drills for fires, for severe weather and also for a lock down — when a school needs to close its doors because the students are in danger. The scenario that the students are told they are preparing for is the Sandy Hook scenario: a stranger comes into the school and wants to hurt someone. It’s on everyone’s minds that it could be someone like Adam Lanza, someone waving a gun and firing indiscriminately.

They don’t really talk about the fact that it could be a fellow student. It could be a teacher. It’s always someone they don’t know who got onto the campus and wants to hurt them.


Last month, I got caught in a lock-down drill at my daughter’s middle school. We were told to turn off all the lights and hide somewhere away from the doors and preferably on the sides of the room. We sat there, trying to be quiet, while school officials walked the hallways, checking that doors were locked and students were quiet and hiding.

My kids are very aware that someone could come into their school and harm them. When Sandy Hook first happened and the drills started happening, my then third-grader, who was in a portable, told me how stupid these drills were: After all, anyone could just bust open the door of the portable and kill her. She was very aware that there was the possibility she wasn’t safe at school.

What schools don’t talk about as much is the need to be aware of their fellow students or school employees. They need to speak up if someone seems to be agitated or withdrawn. There’s danger, there, too.

And what we don’t talk about — especially in Texas — is that our gun laws haven’t changed to add more restrictions. In fact, we’ve made it easier to openly carry a gun in more places, though still not in schools.

Like most parents, I want my kids to go to school every day, worry about what they are learning, worry about finding good friends, and not about guns or bombs.

What has changed since Sandy Hook? Our kids have a level of fear they didn’t used to have. Our kids added another drill to their school year. Maybe that makes them more safe. Maybe it does not.