'Lockdown!': How lessons from Sandy Hook saved lives in California shooting

It was five years ago that a young man invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and shot and killed 20 young children and six staff members, a tragedy that indelibly scarred that small city and lives on in the collective national memory. But school shootings didn’t begin, or end, with Sandy Hook. Yahoo News looks at the aftermath of four of these tragedies and the lives they changed. In this story, we examine how the lessons learned at Sandy Hook may have helped save lives at a California school just last month. In other stories, we examine how 20 years on, Jonesboro, Ark., is still traumatized by an attack carried out by two middle-school boys — and how survivors deal with the knowledge that the killers are now grown men and free from prison; and at how the parents of a girl killed in Newtown are coping with their loss.

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The crackle of distant gunfire occasionally comes with the territory in rural Tehama County, Calif., two hours north of Sacramento.

But the shots that rattled school secretary Sara Lobdell the week before Thanksgiving weren’t routine.

“They were too close and too real,” said Lobdell, who was greeting students outside Rancho Tehama Elementary School when the first shot pierced the cool morning air.

Lobdell bolted back into her office and grabbed the intercom.

“Lockdown!” she yelled.

The first bell of the day was still minutes away, so many of the school’s 100 students and nine employees were scattered about. A teacher watching students in the schoolyard also heard shots coming closer.

“Lockdown!” the teacher shouted into a walkie-talkie.

“Lockdown!” Lobdell radioed back.

Related slideshow: Paducah, Jonesboro, Columbine and Newtown: A chain of tragedy and grief >>>

Staff finished corralling students into their classrooms and parents into the office about 10 seconds before the shooter — armed with a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns — stormed into the quad.

Lobdell hid under her desk not knowing if her own two sons had found refuge.

“I was hoping and praying that they were safe and following what they were told to do,” she said, choking back tears.

The gunman, clad in a military-style vest, sprayed bullets at the school’s walls and windows. Unable to breach the locked classroom doors, the suspect, identified by police as 44-year-old Kevin Janson Neal, fled the scene after exchanging fire with police and later shot himself to death, according to authorities.

Police say Neal killed five adults, including his wife, during his rampage. One child was shot while sheltering at the school but survived.

Authorities say Lobdell saved Rancho Tehama from being the scene of the nation’s latest Sandy Hook, Columbine or Jonesboro. Lobdell credits the school’s lockdown plan.

“Practice, practice, practice,” she told Yahoo News of the Nov. 14 shooting spree. “Practice doing the drills and ensuring that the kids do in fact listen. What was amazing was that there was not a question from any child — they did exactly as they were told and instructed.”

While Rancho Tehama’s hasty lockdown is being heralded, there are questions about the status of active shooter plans in other schools across the country.

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Looking back at the Sandy Hook school shooting
Twenty-seven wooden angel figures are seen placed in a wooded area beside a road near the Sandy Hook Elementary School for the victims of a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012. Twelve girls, eight boys and six adult women were killed in the shooting on Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 14: People gather at the scene of a mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. There are 27 dead, 20 of them children, after Adam Lanza reportedly opened fire in one of the largest school massacres in U.S. history. Lanza is dead at the scene and his mother, a teacher at the school, is also dead. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, during a press briefing at the White House in Washington December 14, 2012. A heavily armed gunman opened fire on school children and staff at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, killing 26 people including 18 children in the latest in a series of shooting rampages that have tormented the United States this year, U.S. media reported. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 17: Candles are lit among mementos at a memorial for victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, on December 17, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. The first two funerals for victims of the shooting were held today. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 15: Andrea Jaeger places flowers and a candle at a makeshift memorial outside a firehouse which was used as a staging area for families following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 15, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty six people were shot dead, including twenty children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza in news reports opened fire in the school. Lanza also reportedly had committed suicide at the scene. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 14: Police cars and other vehicles fill a road near the scene of a mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. There are 27 dead, 20 of them children, after Adam Lanza reportedly opened fire in one of the largest school massacres in U.S. history. Lanza is dead at the scene and his mother, a teacher at the school, is also dead. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 16: Eric Mueller places twenty seven wooden angles he made in his yard down the street from the Sandy Hook School on December 16, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six people were shot dead, including twenty children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza also reportedly had committed suicide at the scene. A 28th person, believed to be Nancy Lanza was found dead in a house in town, was also believed to have been shot by Adam Lanza. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A couple embraces while visiting a memorial for victims of the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, at Sandy Hook Village in Newtown, Connecticut, December 17, 2012. A gunman used a military-style assault rifle to kill six adults and 20 first-graders at the elementary school in Newtown before committing suicide on December 14. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Lynn and Christopher McDonnell, the parents of seven-year-old Grace McDonnell, grieve near Sandy Hook Elementary after learning their daughter was one of 20 school children and six adults killed after a gunman opened fire inside the school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. A heavily armed gunman opened fire on school children and staff at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, killing at least 26 people, including 20 children, in the latest in a series of shooting rampages that have tormented the United States this year. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
New Jersey resident Steve Wruble, who was moved to drive out to Connecticut to support local residents, grieves for victims of an elementary school mass shooting at the entrance to Sandy Hook village in Newtown, Connecticut December 15, 2012. Investigators have found "some very good evidence" to explain what drove a 20-year-old gunman to slaughter 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in the small Connecticut town of Newtown, the site of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, an official said on Saturday. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
NEWTOWN, CT - OCTOBER 04: Mark Barden holds up a picture of his son Daniel who was killed in the Sandy Hook masracre during a vigil remembering the 58 people killed in Sunday's shooting in Las Vegas and calling for action against guns on October 4, 2017 in Newtown, Connecticut. The vigil, organized by the Newtown Action Alliance, was held outside the National Shooting Sport Foundation and looked to draw attention to gun violence in America. Twenty school children were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The scene at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012. A shooter opened fire at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday, killing several people including children, the Hartford Courant newspaper reported. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION)
A woman mourns while speaking on the phone near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire on school children and staff in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. A heavily armed gunman opened fire on school children and staff at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, killing at least 26 people, including 18 children, in the latest in a series of shooting rampages that have tormented the United States this year. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION)
Police and other officials stand outside Sandy Hook Elementary School in this aerial photograph a day after a mass shooting at the school in Newtown, Connecticut December 15, 2012. Investigators assembled "some very good evidence" to explain what drove a 20-year-old gunman to slaughter 20 children and six adults at an elementary school, police said on Saturday, a day after one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history shattered a small Connecticut town. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION)
A sign is seen on a house near the Sandy Hook Elementary School for the victims of a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut early Sunday December 16, 2012. Twelve girls, eight boys and six adult women were killed in the shooting on Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION)
A man kneels at a memorial near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012. Twelve girls, eight boys and six adult women were killed in a shooting on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. REUTERS/Eric Thayer (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION)
The chaotic scene outside the fire station in Sandy Hook after today's shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, USA. 14th December 2012. Photo Tim Clayton (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
FBI SWAT team members walk along Dickinson Drive near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Friday, December 14, 2012. Twenty-seven people, including 18 children, have been killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images)
Parents leave Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, with their children Friday, December 14, 2012. Twenty-seven people, including 18 children, have been killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (John Woike/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images)
A woman talks to a state police officer at the scene of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Friday, December 14, 2012. Twenty-seven people, including 18 children, have been killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images)
Two unidentified nuns on December 14, 2012 leave the scene at the aftermath of a school shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that brought police swarming into the leafy neighborhood, while other area schools were put under lock-down, police and local media said. Local media quoted that the gunman had died at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, northeast of New York City. At least 27 people, including 18 children, were killed on Friday when at least one shooter opened fire at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, CBS News reported, citing unnamed officials. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
A child and her mother leave staging area outside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. A gunman opened fire inside school killing 27 people, including 20 children. (Photo by James Keivom/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
State Police inspect the area on December 14, 2012 at the aftermath of a school shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that brought police swarming into the leafy neighborhood, while other area schools were put under lock-down, police and local media said. Local media quoted that the gunman had died at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, northeast of New York City. At least 27 people, including 18 children, were killed on Friday when at least one shooter opened fire at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, CBS News reported, citing unnamed officials. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Mourners look through windows from outside the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left at least 27 people dead, many of them young children, in Newtown, Connecticut, USA, 14 December 2012. AFP PHOTO / Pool / Andrew GOMBERT (Photo credit should read ANDREW GOMBERT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 14: Mourners gather inside the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-seven people are dead, including 20 children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza in news reports opened fire in the school. Lanza also reportedly died at the scene. (Photo by Andrew Gombert-Pool/Getty Images)
CHATHAM, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 14: An employee of a roadside restaurant watches a television news report December 14, 2012 in Chatham, New York of the killings of 26 elementary school students and faculty Sandy Hook, Connecticut. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Washington, DC - DECEMBER 14: U.S. President Barack Obama reacts as John Brennan briefs him on the details of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on December 14, 2012 in Washington, D.C. The President later said during a TV interview that this was the worst day of his Presidency. (Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)
Unidentified people, believed to be parents and relatives, leaving the fire station in Sandy hook after today's shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, USA. 14th December 2012. Photo Tim Clayton (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 15: Police officers from Newtown and nearby cities block off a road downtown and direct traffic following Friday's mass shooting at nearby Sandy Hook elementary school, December 15, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty six people were shot dead, including twenty children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza also reportedly had committed suicide at the scene. A 28th person, believed to be Nancy Lanza was found dead in a house in town, was also believed to have been shot by Adam Lanza. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 15: A woman reacts at a prayer service to reflect on the violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School at St. John Episcopal Church on December 15, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty six people were shot dead, including twenty children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza opened fire in the school. Lanza also reportedly had committed suicide at the scene. A 28th person, believed to be Nancy Lanza was found dead in a house in town, was also believed to have been shot by Adam Lanza. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Dylan Hockley's photo is displayed on his obituary during his funeral service in Bethel, Connecticut December 21, 2012. Hockley was a victim of the December 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. REUTERS/Joshua Lott (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION)
Lee Paulsen listens to a healing service held at St. John's Episcopal Church in Newtown, Connecticut, on Saturday, December 15, 2012, a day after a rampage shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 15: A man carrying his daughter has to make his way through a mass of members of the media to place flowers by a Sandy Hook Elementary sign on Dec. 15, 2012, one day after a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and opened fire killing 20 children and several adults. (Photo by Essdras M Suarez/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 15: GV of the entrance to Yogananda Street, the location of the home of Nancy Lanza who was shot dead by her son Adam on December 15, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. After killing his mother, Adam went on to Sandy Hook Elementary school and killed 20 children and 6 adults. PHOTOGRAPH BY Barcroft Media /Barcoft Media via Getty Images
A young girl wearing angel wings arrive to pay their respects to the shrine created under the school sign in Sandy Hook after yesterday's shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, USA. 15th December 2012. Photo Tim Clayton (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 16: Newtown first responders received an emotional standing ovation as they entered the auditorium for a vigil at Newtown High School on December 16, 2012 at Newtown High School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six people were shot dead, including twenty children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza also reportedly had committed suicide at the scene. A 28th person, believed to be Nancy Lanza, found dead in a house in town, was also believed to have been shot by Adam Lanza. (Photo by Stephen Dunn-Pool/Getty Images)
Newtown community comes together outside the firehouse to mourn the loss of 27 people including 20 children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Rachel Pollen and her son Landon Dececco, 2, from New London, come to pay their respects to Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims on Decemeber 16, 2012. (Photo by Todd Maisel/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Teddy Bears with the names of the fallen children at the shrine set up around the towns Christmas tree in Sandy Hook after the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, USA. 16th December 2012. Photo Tim Clayton (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
A night shot of twenty-seven wooden angel figures placed in a wooded area beside the road in Sandy Hook after the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, USA. 16th December 2012. Photo Tim Clayton (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 17: Boys enter Honan Funeral Home before the funeral for six-year-old Jack Pinto on December 17, 2012 in Newtown Connecticut. Pinto was one of the 20 students killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 17: The New York Jets wear a helmet decal for the fallen students of Sandy Hook Elementary School when the Tennessee Titans host the New York Jets at LP Field on December 17, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 17: A man and child leave the Honan Funeral Home following the funeral for 6-year-old Jack Pinto on Monday, December 17, 2012, in Newtown, CT. Police say Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot his mother, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown and killed 20 children, six adults and himself. Pinto was among the victims of that shooting. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
A young boy pets Abby, a Golden Retriever, as Barnabas, stands at left at a memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting in the center of Sandy Hook Monday, December 17, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. The dogs were among nine therapy dogs brought to Sandy Hook from Portage, Indiana, with the Holy Cross Lutheran Church to help mourners cope with the devastating loss. Seven of the dogs were brought to a private space where the Sandy Hook students were gathered to comfort them. (Cloe Poisson/Hartford/Courant/MCT via Getty Images)
An Albanian boy lights candles to pay respect to victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in the U.S., in central Tirana December 17, 2012. A gunman massacred 20 children and six adults in a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14. REUTERS/Arben Celi (ALBANIA - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION POLITICS)
Balloons are released after burial services for Noah Pozner in Monroe, Connecticut December 17, 2012. Pozner,6, was the youngest victim of Friday's shootings at Sandy Hook elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW OBITUARY)
Veronique Pozner (L), mother of Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting victim Noah Pozner, walks with an unidentified woman to his gravesite for his burial at B'nai Israel Cemetery in Monroe, Connecticut December 17, 2012. Mourners in Newtown, Connecticut, headed for the first two of 20 funerals of schoolchildren massacred during a shooting in their classroom as the rest of the nation on Monday anxiously sent children back to school with tightened security. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION)
NEWTOWN, CT - MAY 22: Mark Barden weeps as he recalls memories of his slain son, Daniel, in Newtown, CT on May 23, 2013. Daniel Barden was among the school children killed in Newtown last December. Life, for the survivors, has changed dramatically. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 19: Area firefighters, including first responders from the Sandy Hook Fire Department, stand by for the passing of the funeral procession of Sandy Hook Elementary School student Daniel Gerard Barden in the town center of Sandy Hook on Tuesday, December 19, 2012, in Newtown, CT. Police say Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot his mother, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown and killed 20 children, six adults and himself. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Flowers and stuffed animals are seen at the grave sites of Charlotte Helen Bacon (C), Ana Grace Marquez-Greene (L) and Allison Wyatt, three of 20 school children killed in the December 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, at the Newtown Village Cemetery in Newtown, Connecticut June 14, 2013. Six months after a gunman killed 26 children and adults at the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, families and local officials will mark the day by honoring the victims and renewing the fight for stricter gun control. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST EDUCATION CRIME LAW)
Bethlehem firefighters salute as the funeral procession for Rachel Marie D'Avino makes it way into the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Connecticut, December 21, 2012. D'Avino was a victim of the December 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION CRIME LAW)
U.S. President Barack Obama (3rd L) hugs Sarah Davino (L) and Mary Davino (2nd L), as he awards the Presidential Citizens Medal posthumously to their family member Rachel Davino, a teacher who gave her life in the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut in December, in the East Room at the White House in Washington, February 15, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
A memento for Josephine Gay, one of 20 students killed in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, states 'hugs' as it hangs amid others from a tree in Newtown, Connecticut December 14, 2014. Parents of almost half the young children killed by a gunman at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, two years ago on Sunday have taken initial steps toward filing lawsuits tied to one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. For a second straight year the leafy suburb has planned no public events to commemorate the massacre, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School, an incident that inflamed the U.S. debate over gun control. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW ANNIVERSARY SOCIETY)
MA - DECEMBER 2: Bob and Michele Gay are among the number of parents who lost a child during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. They have now moved near Boston. We photographed them on Dec. 3, 2013, in a room in their new home where they have recreated their daughter Josephine's 'Joey' room. (Photo by Essdras M Suarez/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - JANUARY 14: Jimmy Green holds a photo of his daughter Anna Grace Marquez Green during a press conference with fellow parents on the one month anniversary of the Newtown elementary school massacre on January 14, 2013 in Newtown, Connecticut. Eleven families of Sandy Hook massacre victims came to the event one month after the shooting to give their support to Sandy Hook Promise, a new non-profit with the goal of preventing such tragedies in the future. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 21: A photo diary of Dylan Hockley, six years old, victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, who died in the arms of his teaching aid who tried to protect him from the bullets, during the funeral services, on December 21, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. PHOTOGRAPH BY Anthony Behar / Barcroft Media /Barcoft Media via Getty Images
Nelba Marquez-Greene (L) the mother of Ana Grace Marques-Greene, 6, and Nicole Hockley, the mother of Dylan Hockley, 6, victims of the December 14, 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, comfort each other on stage during the launch of The Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit created in response to the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION CRIME LAW)
Students sit behind a quote by slain Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, displayed on the window of a school bus, as it approaches a stop near the original site of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut June 14, 2013. Six months after a gunman massacred 26 children and adults at the elementary school, Newtown, Connecticut, marked the day with 26 seconds of silence and an expression of frustration at the stalled progress on gun control. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST EDUCATION)
A photograph of 47-year-old Dawn Hochsprung, principal of the Sandy Hook Elementary School who was killed in the December 14 shootings at her school, hangs on a flag bearing the names of all the victims at a memorial for the victims of the shootings in Sandy Hook village in Newtown December 19, 2012. Hochsprung's family will hold her funeral service in Newtown Wednesday, one of six such funerals for victims of the shootings being held Wednesday in the area. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION)
A birdhouse bearing the name of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Catherine V. Hubbard hangs from a tree as part of a memorial in Sandy Hook village in Newtown, Connecticut December 13, 2013. December 14th marks the one year anniversary of the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed by gunman Adam Lanza REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME ANNIVERSARY)
The casket for Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Catherine Hubbard is taken into Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church for her wake in Newtown, Connecticut December 19, 2012. Six victims of the Newtown school shootings will be honored at funerals and remembrances on Wednesday. REUTERS/Joshua Lott (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION)
Friends of Chase Kowalski, one of the victims of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, take part in the March on Washington for Gun Control on January 26, 2013 in Washington. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: Neil Heslin, father of six-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Jesse Lewis, wipes tears as he testifies during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee February 27, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on 'The Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 20: Mourners pause after attending a wake for Jesse Lewis, 6, on December 20, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Jesse was killed when 20 children and six adults were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. The boy is scheduled to be buried at a private service Friday. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A painting by an artist in Litchfield, Conn., of Jesse Lewis, the Sandy Hook first grader shot and killed by Adam Lanza after telling his classmates to run, hangs on the wall of Scarlett Lewis' Sandy Hook home. (John Woike/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images)
Mourners line the road to watch the motorcade containing the hearse carrying Sandy Hook Elementary School student James Mattioli, 6, in Darien, Connecticut December 18, 2012. Twelve girls, eight boys and six adult women were killed in a shooting on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW)
Robbie Parker glances skyward as he stands with his wife, Alissa, (right) at a dedication ceremony for Emilie's Shady Spot playground at Riverside Park in New London, Conn., November 17, 2013. The playground, dedicated and named for Emilie Parker, is the 14th of 26 to be built as part of the Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play project, in honor of each of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting. (Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images)
Emilie Parker's writing is etched on a sign in front of Emilie's Shady Spot playground at Riverside Park in New London, Conn., November 17, 2013. The playground, dedicated and named for Emilie Parker, is the 14th of 26 to be built as part of the Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play project, in honor of each of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting. (Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images)
A sand dollar bearing the name of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Jack Pinto hangs from a tree as part of a memorial in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, Connecticut December 14, 2013. Today marks the one year anniversary of the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed by gunman Adam Lanza. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW)
A photo of Caroline Previdi, one of the victim from an elementary school shooting is set up at a makeshift shrine to the victims of an elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, December 17, 2012. Funerals began Monday in the little Connecticut town of Newtown after the school massacre that took the lives of 20 small children and six staff, triggering new momentum for a change to America's gun culture. The first burials, held under raw, wet skies, were for two six-year-old boys who were among those shot in Sandy Hook Elementary School. On Tuesday, the first of the girls, also aged six, was due to be laid to rest. There were no Monday classes at all across Newtown, and the blood-soaked elementary school was to remain a closed crime scene indefinitely, authorities said. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP / EMMANUEL DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Jennifer Hensel (L) and Jeremy Richman, the parents of Avielle Richman, 6, and David Wheeler (R), the father of Benjamin Wheeler, 6, victims of the December 14, 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, attend the launch of The Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit created in response to the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION CRIME LAW)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Teresa Rousseau holds a photo of her daughter Lauren Rousseau, 30, who was a substitute teacher when she was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School nearly a year ago, as members of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence are joined by the Newtown Action Alliance and the Newtown Foundation for a news conference days before the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School to honor the memory of gun violence victims, at the Lutheran Church of Reformation, December 11, 2013, in Washington, DC. The Newtown Action Alliance and supporters honor the memories of gun violence victims through acts of kindness and service around the DC metro area. (Photo by Rod Lamkey/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO. - FEBRUARY 05: Jane Dougherty holds a photo of her sister, Mary Sherlach, who was killed at Sandy Hook, during a press conference to unveil gun legislation aimed at curbing gun violence, February, 04, 2013, at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. Dougherty, who lives in Colorado, was joined by family members who lost loved ones in the Aurora theater shooting and at Columbine High School. (Photo By RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
STRATFORD, CT - DECEMBER 19: A mourner displays a program for the funeral of slain teacher Victoria Soto, 27, at the Lordship Community Church on December 19, 2012 in Stratford, Connecticut. The first grade teacher died while reportedly trying to protect her students during last Friday's shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
STRATFORD, CT - DECEMBER 15: Donna Soto (R), mother of Victoria Soto, the first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who was shot and killed while protecting her students, hugs her daughter Karly (second from right) while mourning their loss with Victoria's other two siblings, Jillian (far left) and Matthew Soto (second from left), at a candlelight vigil at Stratford High School on December 15, 2012 in Stratford, Connecticut. Twenty-six people were shot dead, including twenty children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza opened fire in the school. Lanza also reportedly had committed suicide at the scene. A 28th person, believed to be Nancy Lanza was found dead in a house in town, was also believed to have been shot by Adam Lanza. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
The mother of Benjamin Wheeler, a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, attends a news conference January 14, 2013 in Newtown, Connecticut. Families of victims asked that there be a dialogue to find solutions on how to prevent similar future violence. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
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Five years after 20 children and six adults were fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., many of the public schools that house 50 million pupils and six million adults daily continue to grapple with preparing for a potential mass shooting:

  • How to conduct drills without sensationalizing violence or alarming children?
  • Should uniformed officers patrol the hallways?
  • Do we fortify already-aging schools with high-tech surveillance gadgets?
  • Who funds what?

“It can be really dizzying for communities looking at what’s out there in the school safety world,” said safety advocate Michele Gay, whose 7-year-old daughter, Josephine Grace, died at Sandy Hook.

Even some experts disagree on what to do in the heat of the moment. Federal guidelines published six months after Sandy Hook instruct adults to fight an attacker as a last resort, but the FBI and U.S. Department of Education differed on whether children should be taught the same.

The 75-page guideline for school emergency preparedness was produced jointly by six federal agencies in response to President Obama’s request for a plan to curb gun violence. But with the guide completed, no one agency or office was given direct responsibility for overseeing implementation, according to a March 2016 report by the Government Accountability Office.

“GAO found gaps in coordination that suggest recent efforts are insufficient: not all relevant agencies and officials are included in collaborative efforts or are aware of related efforts and resources, and agencies are offering different interpretations of the same federal guidance—all of which risks wasting limited federal resources on duplicative, overlapping, or fragmented efforts,” federal auditors wrote.

Meanwhile, a GAO survey of 50 states and the District of Columbia found that less than half reported having mandates for schools and districts to carry out active shooter drills.

Rick Fitzgerald, the superintendent in Corning Union Elementary School District, which includes Rancho Tehama, said California schools are required to have a lockdown plan and conduct drills in coordination with local law enforcement.

“We have been doing lockdown drills for years,” Fitzgerald told Yahoo News. “The attention to detail and process was more finely focused as a direct result of Sandy Hook.”

That’s comforting news to safety advocate Gay and to Alissa Parker, mother of Sandy Hook victim Emilie Parker. After the Dec. 14, 2012, deaths of their daughters, they co-founded Safe and Sound Schools: A Sandy Hook Initiative, a nonprofit with a comprehensive approach to ending school violence.

“I saw that day that there were so many things that we could have done a little bit differently,” said Gay, whose daughter’s birthday party was set for the next day. “I just couldn’t not share what we learned with others.”

The front doors of Sandy Hook were locked, but 20-year-old Adam Lanza gained access by shooting out the glass. His violent entry got the attention of the nation’s schools, thousands of which have added laminate or impact-resistant film to make windows harder to break.

“If they work on it long enough they’ll get through, but the idea is that it buys you time,” said Pete Blair, a criminal justice professor and the executive director of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University.

The Sandy Hook massacre involved the shooter barging in to two first-grade classrooms. Those doors could be locked, but only from the outside.

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Newly constructed Sandy Hook
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Newly constructed Sandy Hook
The front of the newly constructed Sandy Hook Elementary School, built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre, is pictured in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Newtown Superintendent Dr. Joseph V. Erardi, Jr. and First Selectman Pat Llodra (R) unveil the newly constructed Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. The new school was built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Principal Dr. Kathy Gombos (C) addresses the media during the unveiling of the newly constructed Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. The new school was built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
One of the playgrounds of the newly constructed Sandy Hook Elementary School is unveiled by officials in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. The school was built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
The gymnasium of the newly constructed Sandy Hook Elementary School is unveiled by officials in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. The school was built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Sandy Hook and Newtown fridge magnets in a second grade classroom of the newly constructed Sandy Hook Elementary School, built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre, are pictured in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Student lockers and supplies in a second grade classroom of the newly constructed Sandy Hook Elementary School, built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre, are pictured in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Officials unveil the newly constructed Sandy Hook Elementary School, including this second grade classroom, built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre, in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Members of the media tour the newly constructed Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. The new school was built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin Ã
The center courtyard of the newly constructed Sandy Hook Elementary School, built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre, is pictured in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
The sign for the new Sandy Hook Elementary School at the end of the drive leading to the school is pictured in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. The officials unveiled the newly constructed school, built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
The front of the newly constructed Sandy Hook Elementary School, built to replace the building torn down after a gunman shot dead 20 young children and six educators in a 2012 massacre, is pictured in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
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“The way that we had practiced our lockdown would be that the teacher would keep the key in an emergency folder,” Gay said. “It was an impossibility. They all did a phenomenal job with what they had in those moments.”

These days, schools are not only making it easier for teachers to lock doors but many are also instructing them on breaking windows as a means of escape. Some newly constructed schools are adding second exits to classrooms.

“You need multiple options,” Blair said. “You can’t say that the only option we’re going to have is this one.”

For all the lockdown drills  and advances in technology, Gay said the most important change since her daughter’s death has been a shift in the conversation and a more collaborative approach to planning.

“We can no longer play the denial card, if you will,” she said. “We can’t afford to underutilize one group; we can’t afford to leave out one perspective.”

One perspective now being given more consideration is the psychological impact on survivors, symbolized by a widely seen photo from that hellish day five years ago showing Sandy Hook children walking away from the bullet-riddled building. They are in a line, hands to shoulders, and their eyes are closed.

“A first responder trained in such a different way was already thinking about mitigating the traumatic effect of those sights for the children and the teachers,” Gay said. That, she said, is a lesson schools across the country are incorporating into their own plans.

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