Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting 9.16.13

Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

On December 24, 2012, Adam Lanza shot and killed twenty-six children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This shooting ranks among the deadliest shootings in American history by a single person. This event has prompted debate on gun control in the United States once again; as this is not the first time this issue has been raised.

    Many Americans feel that this event will not change anything concerning gun laws and things will return to the way they were before only allowing a similar event to happen in the future. President Barak Obama has reacted to this problem by stating that, “We are going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics”. Since this speech nearly 200,000 Americans have signed a petition to allow for an increase in restrictions on gun laws. What may seem like a positive thing to most Americans seems like a negative thing to the National Rifle Association.

     The National Rifle Association strongly disagrees with the reform on gun policy. Members state that the government should better enforce the gun laws already in place, and that an increase in gun control will only compromise the rights of Americans by impeding on the Second Amendment. The National Rifle Association is attempting to satisfy some of the restrictions proposed by the government. They are working to obtain records of those they feel are mentally incompetent and potentially dangerous as a way of limiting the amount of guns that would fall into the wrong hands. They believe this decrease the amount of illegal third parties obtaining guns. There has also been debate concerning the proposal of the National Rifle Association to arm teachers while on school grounds. Many feel that this action would only raise the risk of more accidents concerning guns rather than making their children more safe and feel that this is a step in the wrong direction. This sense of gun control seems to only be looked at through a political lens. This lens seriously limits the amount of solutions that are available to Americans as a nation. A more appropriate lens one can look through is an architectural one.

    It seems that architecture in the past is often overlooked simply because we are developing new materials and new methods of building; though this is understandable, there are many principles in architecture that can provide guidance for architects building today. Past architecture can inform us as architects, as how to design future buildings.

The interior of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon.
The interior of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon.

Architectural precedents such as Jeremy Bentham’s, Panopticon provides ideas to possible solutions to this issue. The concept of the Panopticon is based on a tower in the center of the building that allows it to have a clear view of the cells surrounding it.This was originally proposed in a prison setting where this tower allowed for the guards to have a visual on every inmates’ movements at all times. This in its truest form may not be appropriate in a school setting, but adaptations to this form may allow for breakthroughs in school safety. As of now schools are implementing mechanical elements in their buildings that fall along the lines of increased video camera surveillance, photo identification recognition, and documentation of visitors entering the building that may be unrelated to the school.

Thomson Correctional Facility located just north of Thomson, Illinois.
Aerial view of Thomson Correctional Center, located just north of Thomson, Illinois.

     Another precedent that serves as a possible model is the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Here, the cells in plan are centered around the mess hall and in a form that mimics that of a wheel. Each of these “spokes” has its own central space allowing for guards to have a view of the inmates more easily. This idea could be implemented by breaking the school up into regions in an attempt to add a higher sense of security within the environment. Architects have stated that this added security is positive in all aspects but it brings about added difficulty because they must be careful not to construct a prison for students instead of a school building.

    It is becoming imperative that the architect is aware of these matters when creating a building. The architect is being pushed to meet with more people during design so that they can have a more complete building in the sense that it’s safe in all aspects. Many architects have begun meeting with security experts more exclusively in order to have increased security in their buildings. Many parents and members of the school board feel that this phase of remodeling in order to create safer spaces is a very positive thing, but it comes with a cost. The renovations will be very expensive but they feel that the safety of their children and students is invaluable. With this added security, parents feel that they will worry less about their children when sending them to school and this will provide them with the ease of having one less thing to worry about when going about their days.

School Camera Installment
Surveillance cameras installed on exterior school walls.

    School boards have collectively been in closer contact with architects and security advisors and they have proposed a few ideas they feel that they can implement in the new features of their buildings. Teachers feel that there should be a more intense screening process when visitors are entering the building. They feel that it should be a standard that there are at least two sets of doors the visitor must pass through before gaining access to the building. This will allow for a door attendant to question the visitor on their business upon entering the building. The attendant will then ask for a form of identification so that they might document this as a way of monitoring who has had been given access to the school. School boards are also are working on ways that teachers can lock the doors in the building by using their cell phones and will have constant video streaming in real time of areas throughout the school, so that if an intruder would penetrate the walls of the school teachers and students would be able to react accordingly. Architects who are an active part of this school board also felt that it would be necessary to have two forms of egress when being in any classroom. This would enable teachers and students to move more freely from classroom to classroom if they would need to evacuate in a case of emergency.

    All of these precautions are brought to the school board by concerned parents and the community alike. Advances in technology and architecture are able to help facilitate the level of security in the building. By having the capability to constantly survey the campus as well as having control over the locking of spaces and moving through these spaces with a greater ability, teachers and students have expressed that they feel more safe. They emphasize on the idea that school should not be a place that should worry parents, students, or any staff. It should serve as a place for students to come and learn without the constant fear of another traumatic event like the Sandy Hook Shooting. The steps they are moving through now they feel is the appropriate way of achieving this condition.

Annotated Bibliography


[This piece talks about how many schools are insecure and how this enables intruders to easily access the students. School boards are thinking about how to create a safer environment for their students. They call upon architects are now thinking about how they can incorporate security features into school buildings. An issue they have to work with is creating a secure environment while not creating a fortress.]

Caron, Paul. “Six months after Sandy Hook shootings, schools seek secure redesigns.” CNN. (2013). (accessed September 9, 2013).


[This entry talks about how schools are improving on entry control, installation of video cameras, and eliminating dead space when re-designing their schools. They feel that these improvements will help decrease the potential of intruders successfully entering the school. They know that this increased security will come at a large cost, but feel that their students’ lives are invaluable.]

McLester, Susan. “Designing Safe Facilities.” District Administration Solution for School District Management. (2011). (accessed September 9, 2013).


[This image and paragraph from the Encyclopedia Britannica start to show how widespread this problem is throughout the United States of America. It shows the different ratios of which types of guns were used and also brings in the idea of this isn’t a small problem by any means.]

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Mass Shootings in the United States, 1982–2012,” accessed September 09, 2013,


[From this encyclopedia entry detailed information about the school shooting is presented clearly and effectively. The entry also includes a details about what people thought of the Sandy Hook Shooting after the fact and what they were going to do in order to better protect their communities and schools.]

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Newtown shootings of 2012,” accessed September 09, 2013,


[This article delves into the public’s beliefs that schools are unsafe. It challenges this by stating that this belief is created by the media and that the public is feeding off of this misrepresentation. This paper argues that schools remain safe even with the increase of media focus on school shootings.]

Burns, Ronald. School shootings, the media, and public fear: Ingredientsfor a moral panic. master\., Texas Christian Univeristy, 1999.

[This article discusses the different studies of laws preventing children from gaining access to firearms. These laws hold adults criminally liable for unsafe firearm storage in the environment of children. The article begins to reexamine the effects of CAP laws and more fully examine the consistency of the law effects across all states inside the United States of America.]

Webster, Daniel. “Reexamining the Association Between Child Access Prevention Gun Laws and Unintentional Shooting Deaths of Children.” no. 6 (2000). (accessed September 9, 2013).


[This plan/elevation/sectional perspective is of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon. In this structure one is always seen by the tower that is in place directly in the middle. This critically alters the actions of others because they are aware that someone is always watching them. This idea could be implemented in schools to allow for all of the school to be under watch at all times, ultimately increasing security.]

Revelry, Willey. Panopticon. 1843. Graphic. WikipediaWeb. 9 Sep 2013. <>.


[This image of the Thomson Correctional Facility shows an aerial view/plan view. In this structure the layout of the cells surrounds the central mess halls, like a hub on a wheel. Each separate cell hall also has a hub or central control zone from within the middle of the X which allows prison guards to view all of the cells at once. This concept could be implemented into the design of schools which could allow the administration of the school control all access to the building.]

Blake, Matthew. “Illinois can’t escape prison impasse” Recorded 03 14 2011. 03 14 2011. Web,


[This video explains how schools are taking measures to increase their security. They have put in place video cameras at entrances to evaluate people wanting access to the school. They are also proposing that teachers and staff members carry guns on their person to provide a second line of defense if an intruder would gain access to the school. The school feels that these increased security measures will serve as an effective way to keep their students safe.]

“Inside Chicago School’s Extensive Security Measures.”ABC youtube videos Recorded 12 19 2012. ABC 12 19 2012. DVD,


[This audio clip produced by NPR talks about the need for greater security at all schools in the United States of America. Information is being shared from schools, teachers, and administration about what parts of their security are lacking. The audio clip also talks about the need for armed police officers and discusses the possibility of arming teachers in the classroom. These changes might be too drastic and might cause the wrong ideas in students minds.]

Sanchez, Claudio. “Schools Re-Examine Security After Newtown Shooting” Recorded 12 07 2012. National Public Radio 12 07 2012. compact disc,]

Staff, Gazette Recorded 12 15 2009. The Gazette 12 15 2009. Web,

Douglas, Stan Recorded 2005. Terminartors 2005. Web,

Newcomb, Alyssa. “Before Newtown, How 4 Other Schools Handled Reopening After Tragedy” Recorded 05 11 2013. ABC News 05 11 2013. Web,



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