Parkland massacre probe urges 'safe areas' in US schools

03 January 2019 - 07:48 By AFP
Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver, one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, works on a mural of his son at the border fence wall between United States and Mexico, seen from Tijuana, Mexico December 19, 2018.
Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver, one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, works on a mural of his son at the border fence wall between United States and Mexico, seen from Tijuana, Mexico December 19, 2018.
Image: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A comprehensive report on the massacre of 17 people in a high school in Parkland, Florida said school design should incorporate "safe areas" that could hide students from shooters.

The 400-page report by a state commission on the February 14, 2018 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School found many shortcomings in school security, including the lack of guards on entrances and the failure of school staff to declare a "Code Red" alert when a heavily armed former student, Nikolas Cruz, opened fire.

The report, which detailed the attack and response minute by minute, did not single out one major point of failure or person to blame for the massacre, which sparked calls to harden the security at schools across the country and even arm teachers.

But it said students would have been better protected if simple measures were taken, including allocating areas in rooms, so-called hard corners, that cannot be seen by an attacker peering in through windows.

The report noted that some rooms in the school building that Cruz attacked did have hard corners, but were ineffective in hiding students because they were obstructed by equipment.

Cruz, who killed 14 students and three staff members, while wounding another 17, "only shot people within his line of sight, and he never entered any classroom," the report noted.

"Some students were shot and killed in classrooms with obstructed and inaccessible hard corners as they remained in Cruz's line of sight from outside the classroom."

The report nevertheless suggested that classroom doors be lockable from the inside, to prevent an attacker from easily entering.

It also noted that teachers and staff at the high school were poorly trained in emergency procedures, leading to a failure to quickly declare a "Code Red" alerting the attack.

When it was declared, it did not go out uniformly over the school's public address system.

"The lack of a called Code Red on February 14, 2018 -- because there was no policy, little training and no drills --left students and staff vulnerable to being shot, and some were shot because they were not notified to lockdown."

Law enforcement authorities were also faulted for a poorly coordinated response, pinning the blame in part on a "flawed" 911 emergency alert system and faulty police radio. 

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