- A school lockdown may have prevented many more deaths Tuesday, when a gunman who went on a shooting spree in Northern California tried to enter the Rancho Tehama Elementary School.
- At least four people were killed and 10 others were wounded near the school.
- Lockdown drills have become as common in schools as fire drills. They became widespread after the Columbine High School massacre and were reinforced after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The gunman who opened fire in Northern California on Tuesday morning, killing four people and wounding 10 others, is believed to have tried – and failed – to gain access to a nearby elementary school, authorities say.
The school, Rancho Tehama Elementary School, was on lockdown in response to the shooting, a fact highlighted later Tuesday by Phil Johnston, the assistant sheriff for Tehama County.
“This incident, as tragic and as bad as it is, could have been so much worse if it wasn’t for the quick thinking and staff at our elementary school,” Johnston said during a press conference. “The quick action of those school officials – there is no doubt in my mind based on the video that I saw – saved countless lives and children.”
No children were killed in the attack, though at least three were among the wounded, including a 6-year-old with two gunshot wounds who was flown to a hospital and another child who was shot alongside his mother in a car, the Redding Record Searchlight reported.
School was about to start as the gunman opened fire. Coy Ferreira, the father of a kindergartener at the school, told the local news channel KRCR that he heard shots as he was dropping his daughter off at school.
A school official shouted for children to get inside classrooms, he said. The school district praised the staff for its actions, ABC News reported.
“The school was able to go on lockdown very quickly and effectively, which prevented any further injury or violence,” the school district said in a statement.
The sad history of lockdowns
Lockdown drills in schools became widespread after the 1999 high-school shooting in Columbine, Colorado, that left 12 students and a teacher dead.
At the time, the massacre was the deadliest school shooting in American history, and it prompted new security measures to be introduced in schools across the US.
Those efforts were reinforced after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and six staff members dead in Newtown, Connecticut.
The Sandy Hook gunman, Adam Lanza, shot his way into the school, bypassing a security system that required visitors to be buzzed in.
Teachers and staff members at Sandy Hook followed safety procedures, moving their students into storage closets and behind bookcases where they wouldn’t be seen.
“At the whiff of a threat, teachers are now instructed to snap off the lights, lock their doors and usher their students into corners and closets,” The New York Times said in a 2014 story about lockdown procedures. “School officials call the police. Students huddle in their classrooms for minutes or hours, texting one another, playing cards and board games, or just waiting until they get the all clear.”
Lockdown drills have since become as common in schools as fire drills.
Heidi Wysocki, the owner of a company that helps schools train for shootings, told 9 News Colorado in 2016 that the better prepared schools are, the better they can protect their students.
“You want to be able to tell them that this is much like a fire drill, something we do for safety,” she said.