Published September 20. 2013 4:00AM
Connecticut this week began parceling out funding to reimburse municipalities for improving security at public schools throughout the state, a reaction to the slaughter of innocents at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last December.
Making the state's schools as secure as possible is a laudable goal. However, there should be no illusions that this will assure the safety of students and children. Short of converting schools into fortresses, an undesirable and unaffordable option, a disturbed person intent on violence cannot always be stopped.
That was made apparent once again on Monday when Aaron Alexis, a man with a history of mental illness and disturbing behavior, but who was nonetheless able to get security clearance for his subcontracting work, fatally shot 12 people at the heavily guarded Navy Yard in Washington.
In announcing the first $5 million in funding for 169 schools in 36 districts, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recognized the limitations.
"We will never be able to prevent every random act," said Gov. Malloy. "But we can take the steps necessary to make sure that our children and our teachers are as safe as possible."
When combined with local matching funds ranging from 20 percent to 80 percent of the cost, depending on the wealth of the community, the first phase will provide for nearly $9 million in security upgrades.
The legislature has approved spending up to $15 million in state aid to improve security and Gov.Malloy said he may ask for more.
Improvements will include installation of surveillance cameras and bulletproof glass, outfitting schools with electric locks and card entry systems, adding panic alarms and making physical changes to reduce opportunities for unauthorized entry.
Recall, however, that the Sandy Hook school had a good security system and the heavily armed assailant shot his way in. That is why the legislature's earlier action barring the sale of high-capacity assault rifles in the state was so critically important.
"We all wish that this program was not needed," said Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman at the announcement of the security improvement grants.
Given the events in Newtown, the state did need to do something. The investment in school security approved by the legislature is a reasonable response.