Torrance school board member Michael Wermers knows all the safeguards that schools put in place to keep trouble out.
And he also knows reality.
"The trouble is, in the big scheme of things, we can't protect (kids) against this kind of psychopath," Wermers said Friday outside Arnold Elementary School just hours after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. "It's a horrible tragedy and there's really nothing we can do to prevent it.
"We lock our gates. We lock our doors. We have a sign-in process. On our campuses, if we don't know who you are, we kick you out. All of these things exist today. But none of that would protect us against someone going to visit his mother. The guy would have been escorted through our doors just like he probably was there."
While Torrance has school resource officers - uniformed city cops - at all four of its high school campuses, that's not the case with elementary schools. Wermers realizes some parents would at least like to see security guards at the elementary school campuses.
But that wouldn't stop a gunman, he said.
"In this case, that would have been one more victim, unless we're going to arm them, which scares the (expletive) out of me," said the father of three daughters ages 10, 12 and 8. "I don't want a guy with a gun on my campus."
In San Pedro, parent Sandy DeJesus said she wasn't a supporter of armed guards in front of elementary schools - until Friday.
When the mother of three girls learned about the Connecticut school shooting, she had a change of heart.
"It was just very terrifying and it put everything into perspective, especially now just before the holiday," DeJesus said as she picked up her first-grade daughter from South Shores Elementary School.
"I really think that even elementary schools should have a guard, someone armed. This really changed everything for me."
Heather Mills, who was picking up her third-grade son from South Shores, said their school already does enough to keep the children safe.
"I think we do a lot. That's why I have my kids go here," said Mills, a 32-year-old stay-at-home mother.
Visitors to South Shores Elementary, an LAUSD campus, cannot enter the school without being buzzed in through a security door, which has a security camera pointed in front of it.
Natalie Schroeder, whose fifth-grade daughter attends South Shores, said the Los Angeles Unified District campus is "very safe."
"When I heard about it, I thought at least my daughter is at a safe school," said Schroeder, a San Pedro resident and associate professor of English as a Second Language at Long Beach City College.
"The school is pretty much locked. Somebody would have to hop a fence to get in. So it's unlikely somebody would."
Schroeder said the school principal and staff create a "familiar environment."
"The staff know all the parents and so they would probably be able to pick up on something out of the ordinary," she said.
At another LAUSD campus, Purche Avenue Elementary School in Gardena, parent Myra Lewis said she believes her 6-year-old daughter is safe once she's inside the school gates.
"I just think it's a sad tragedy, especially right before the holidays. Here at this school, as soon as the bell rings, the gates are shut down so - as far as safety - I like this school."
Though there were no threats in Los Angeles schools, Los Angeles Police Department officers were directed to provide additional patrols to local campuses Friday, said LAUSD Police Department Chief Steve Zipperman. Those extra patrols will continue when students return from holiday break on Jan. 7.
`We know there are nerves rattled," said Zipperman, appearing at a downtown press conference to discuss safety measures at LAUSD.
The school police force deploys more than 200 officers throughout the district on campus and nearby areas for patrol, Zipperman said. Additionally, every campus within LAUSD has a school safety plan in place.
There are 457 elementary schools in LAUSD. There are no armed school police officers stationed at elementary schools, Zipperman said, but officers are on call to respond to emergency situations.
The elementary schools have "closed campuses," meaning a stranger can't simply walk into a classroom. The layouts of the schools vary, but in most cases, visitors have to enter through the main office, and be allowed to access the rest of the area.
Also, LAPD and LAUSD officers also are certified yearly in active shooter scenarios, he said.
"This is something that we train for ... this is something that every school does," Zipperman said.
Still, he acknowledged there are limitations to what his department can provide in terms of campus safety.
"If someone wants to jump a fence, they're going to," he said.
At the tiny Wiseburn School District near Hawthorne, Superintendent Tom Johnstone said all of his district's schools are closed campuses and require guests to obtain visitors passes from school officials.
But Johnstone wondered whether that's enough to prevent an incident like the Connecticut tragedy, in which the shooter was reportedly known by some on campus. He said he will continue to ask faculty, students staff and parents to remain vigilant and report unusual activity.
"I think it's always good to be prepared but you can never be prepared for every eventuality," Johnstone said. "In a case like that when you have the son of the one of the teachers in the school, it's honestly mind-boggling. It's everybody's worst nightmare."
At Manhattan Beach's Grand View Elementary School, lockdown procedures are reviewed annually and drills are performed at least twice a year - a practice that's become an unfortunate necessity, Principal Rhonda Steinberg said.
"Tragically, there's been more of a need for lockdown drills over the past few years than fire drills," she said.
At Grand View and countless other schools, guests are required to sign in - even if they're family members or familiar faces. Steinberg said she recently stopped the husband of a teacher visiting her school and asked him to report back to the office.
In Redondo Beach, school district officials sent out an email to parents Friday to reassure them about the campus security precautions.
They listed school resource officers and quick response times from the Redondo Beach Police Department, campus supervisors at the middle and high schools, lockdown drills, emergency communication systems for parents, communication systems to classrooms and fencing around campus perimeters.
Micaela Schafer, who has a 9-year-old daughter at Alta Vista Elementary School in Redondo Beach, said she feels safer because the school has a new fence up around campus but, she added: "I'm always here right when she gets out of school."
Staff writers Kristin S. Agostoni, Brian Sumers, Eric Hartley and Dakota Smith contributed to this article.