I-Team: Debate Over How Best to Protect Schools After Newtown Shooting Focuses on Windows

School administrators across the country have been reevaluating their security procedures since a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, two years ago and killed 20 first-grade students and six faculty members before turning the gun on himself.

How to best reinforce existing school security systems is a matter of debate.

Adam Lanza shot through a glass panel next to the locked front entrance doors of the school to get into the building, investigators learned.

In the years since the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre, there have been more than 100 school shootings, more than half at K-12 schools. As part of their intensified security efforts, school districts from Bergen County in New Jersey to New York's Orange County and elsewhere across the U.S. are exploring new ways to safeguard their entry points, explicitly.

"How quickly he got into the building and how fast he massacred teachers and students, changed the landscape," said Bert Ammerman, interim superintendent of the Norwood Public Schools in New Jersey

The Monroe-Woodbury schools in New York have spent $100,000 between buzzers at the front doors and a second measure that has become increasingly popular: a clear film that is placed on top of the existing windows to make it harder to break them.

“It would prevent the person from breaching so quickly,” said Frank Squillante, director of emergency preparedness at Monroe Woodbury High School, where the film, in this case made by 3M, has been installed on all first-floor windows.

A 3M corporate video shows an attacker punching, kicking and even shooting bullets into a film-coated window -- and it doesn't shatter.

A spokeswoman for 3M said that its window film is not designed to completely stop intruders from entering the building, but is supposed to be cost-effective way to give law enforcement more response time. It has cost the majority of schools 3M has worked with an average of $10,000 to $30,000 to apply the film, the spokeswoman, Fanna Haile-Selassie, said. 

Another company, School Guard Glass, claims their product is even stronger.

In a demonstration to the I-Team, it took one strike of a bat to smash a regular untreated window. A window treated with a popular type of laminate also broke after one powerful swing. But the School Guard Glass stayed intact after several strong swings.

Some say the money budgeted for security improvements is better spent elsewhere. 

Anthony Gentile, who teaches about school safety at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is a security adviser for Newtown schools in Connecticut. He thinks a school is better off spending money on buzzer entry systems and security cameras that go directly to the police than on hardening school windows.

"In speaking to other school safety directors in the region, I don't find it on their top 10 list, quite frankly," Gentile said of the safety film.

Ammerman disagrees. He says any additional minutes school officials can buy during a potential crises are worth the cost.

"If you can get a minute to hold an individual out trying to break through glass, you will save people, if not everyone," Ammerman said.  

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