Safe Havens International along with the Maine Department of Education have published a guide for school administration promoting a comprehensive security plan be implemented within school districts to improve overall security – “Twenty Simple Strategies to Safer and More Effective Schools”. Also included in this article, is a link to the University of Virginia Threat Assessment Guidelines which is suggested as a tool for school administrators to deal with the behavioral component and precursory actions which often precede violence in schools. So often, the school shootings reported on the news, online and in print, cause fear in teachers, and communities and have resulted in a plethora of home-made unproven quick fix “security devices” to address a single element, as in an active shooter threat, and this can lead to school administrators making little or no planning on their buying decisions –which may very well violate ADA codes, Life Safety Codes and Fire Door Codes causing more of a threat and dangerous situations, such as fire hazards, ability of anyone to blockade a classroom, not allowing entrance by authorized personnel, or not allowing immediate, single motion and unencumbered exit from a classroom or building to occur. When school districts make uninformed and uneducated purchases without a comprehensive pre-thought out district-wide security plan, which violate these life safety codes, they are essentially ignoring the fact that over 1,000,000 victimizations occur each year in our schools along with fires, and other security issues that also need to be considered.
School administrators, teachers, and boards across the country are buying mechanisms that block or hold the doors shut without the ability to quickly get into a classroom (like what a simple commercial grade lock and key provides). They are blatantly disregarding Fire and Life Safety codes in some cases. A few months ago, the Michigan Bureau of Fire Services issued an alert to school administrators in Michigan, warning against other latch hold closed mechanisms that were in violation of the fire safety codes, creating potentially dangerous situations. These codes were created for a reason, and are based on statistics and occurrences of fire and victimizations.
Besides schools ignoring ADA, NFPA Life Safety 101, and NFPA 80 Fire Door codes, they are also ignoring the fact that just as alarming as active shooters, is the staggering number of violent and nonviolent student and teacher victimizations in schools, which include simple assault, theft, rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, possession of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device, distribution, possession or use of illegal drugs. (see http://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/crimeindicators2013/ind_02.asp Although these numbers are on the decline, they must be considered in a comprehensive security plan.
Allowing the ability to block or hold stop a classroom door from the inside without being able to quickly, and unencumbered gain access from the outside by authorized personnel is not wise. Especially when a lock and key will stop an intruder, and meets all code requirements. Keeping classroom doors closed and locked at all times will work. Adding gimmicky devices can cause more hazardous and dangerous situations. For more information on how administrators can address Threat Assessment guidelines, visit the University of Virginia, Curry college of Education’s website.
Another source for schools to acquire strategic security planning is to contact: Paul Timm of Retasecurity.com