MAPLEWOOD, Minn. -- A teacher who watched the murders of five of her students and a co-worker is pleading with school officials to do something about vulnerable glass, in or near classroom doors.
Missy Dodds - who survived the shootings at Red Lake High School in 2005 - responded to reports that the Sandy Hook School shooter gained entry to the school by shooting out glass near the front door.
Dodds says she felt "extreme anger" when she learned of the shooter's method of entry at Sandy Hook. The gunman killed 26 people inside the school, including 20 children.
The door on Dodds' Red Lake classroom was also locked. 16-year-old Jeff Weise fired a bullet into the lock, which held. Dodds remembers the "ah-ha moment" when Weise looked to a window running vertically alongside the door and realized he had another way in.
He fired several shots into the tempered glass, which shattered into tiny pieces, allowing Weise to walk in through the opening. Minutes later five students and a teacher lay dead, with four other students seriously injured.
Dodds first raised the issue of glass near doors in a KARE 11 special report nearly three years ago, but has been disappointed by the lack of action since. "I would think more parents would demand that school districts look at it."
Hastings is one school district that did take action - replacing plate glass with tougher laminated glass in its middle school classroom doors - after an armed teen gained access to terrified students by breaking out glass in three doors, reaching inside, and undoing locks. The cost the replacement: $2100, or roughly $60 per door.
The Hastings classroom intrusion could have been catastrophic, if the student's gun hadn't jammed because he loaded it with the wrong bullets.
Illinois-based school security consultant Paul Timm says he's not surprised that more schools haven't addressed the vulnerability of glass near doors.
"Our natural tendency is to wait until we have felt pain before we actually start doing something about it," says Timm, the president of RETA Security Inc.
Timm cites the 1958 Our Lady of the Angels school fire that killed 92 students in Chicago, as a turning point for fire safety regulations. "As a result not one student has died in a fire-related school incident since, across the country, in 50 plus years, and it's going to take that kind of a commitment."
Timm acknowledges even the most resilient glass, such as laminated, or even bulletproof glass, may not stop a deranged intruder. But it may not have too. "If we can slow down the adversary and give opportunity for the good guys to arrive, again we're reducing the risk of damage."
Missy Dodds hopes this time someone will listen. "Because I guarantee the parents at Connecticut, a week ago, didn't think it would happen to them."
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