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Mar 13 2018

Legalities of Classroom Barricade Devices

Category: School SecurityLori @ 12:29 pm Comments (8)

I spent some time this morning reading personal accounts of the February 14th school shooting, written by students who attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Their stories are heartbreaking – I can’t imagine my kids experiencing such a devastating tragedy.  But as we’ve seen in each school shooting, there is always something that we can learn about physical security in schools.

From Sandy Hook we learned that teachers – including substitute teachers – MUST have the ability to lock their classroom doors quickly; we also learned that the glass adjacent to school entrance doors is a weak point and must be addressed.  From Red Lake High School we learned that sidelights and vision lights in classroom doors must also have impact-resistant glazing to deter access to the inside lever or touchpad.  From Platte Canyon High School, Virginia Tech, and West Nickel Mines Amish Schoolhouse we learned that when active shooters take hostages and barricade themselves inside with their victims, law enforcement response is delayed and the number of casualties may increase.  From Marshall County High School we learned that the ability to evacuate freely may reduce casualties, and from Rancho Tehama Elementary School we learned that locked doors can delay or prevent a shooter from entering a school.

We will learn more about the shooting in Parkland, Florida as official information becomes available in the coming months.  For now, we only have news reports and eyewitness accounts to learn from.  And what is evident from those accounts is that the classroom doors (most? all?) were closed and locked when the shooting occurred.  While it is horrific to read that shots were fired through the glass, killing and injuring students and teachers who were in the line of fire, the doors were not opened and the shooter did not enter the classrooms.  If he had, the number of fatalities would have undoubtedly been much higher.  The locks that protected those lives were traditional locksets – not retrofit gadgets (AKA classroom barricade devices) that secure the door but also deter or prevent egress and evacuation as well as delaying law enforcement response.  Locks save lives.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether classroom barricade devices are “legal,” whether they are a violation of the ADA, and whether their use increases liability for schools that use them.  For legal advice on these questions, I asked Allegion’s outside counsel.  He provided me with a document specific to accessibility and updated our document on liability – both are available below.  In addition, I recommend reading this article written by Robert Boyd of the Secure Schools Alliance: Classroom Barricade Devices – A Dangerous Violation of Federal Law.

Feel free to distribute any of this information as you discuss classroom security and safety, and let me know what other documentation would be helpful.  You can share this post via social media or email by clicking the Share/Save icon above.


Retrofit Barricade Devices and ADA Compliance

School Liability Update

8 Responses to “Legalities of Classroom Barricade Devices”

  1. Joel Niemi says:

    Certain states allow “drive-by” lawsuits related to barrier-free access & use issues. Woe to the first California school district to deploy barricade devices and be sued for it. They could probably refit every classroom door with a proper lock for the same cost.

  2. Matt says: <– This made me think of this blog. The high school had locked all its perimeter gates to prevent students from walking out…and the students broke out.

    Legal authority to detain notwithstanding, are there any codes regarding perimeter gates?

  3. Matt says:

    If my memory serves me correctly, the Virginia Tech shooter chained shut before going on his shooting rampage in at least one building. This made me think of something else learned regarding life safety/security: exit devices should not allow chaining shut. Bar exit devices have this gaping vulnerability, while pushpad exit devices don’t…unless installed on a door with a full-length window, and a chain can be run through the gap between the panic bar and the glass.

    Regarding preventing chaining double doors from the outside, this could be trickier, but one easy solution would be to only have outside trim on the right-hand door of a double-door pair–this would serve the double purpose of enforcing the rule of courtesy to use the door on your right.

    While this would prevent an adversary from chaining an exit, it would also prevent what’s far more common: exits being chained intentionally for “extra security” or because “we don’t want people exiting that way”.

  4. David Curis says:


    Do we know if in the Parkland situation; what function of lock the classrooms had?

    I have been growing a population of Classroom Intruder function locks on campus and struggle with whether to issue keys to all staff and faculty or using a breakable key box in each classroom with the key stored near the exit side of the door.

    • Lori says:

      Hi David –

      Based on what I have read, I believe the school in Florida had standard classroom locks, but had adopted a policy of keeping the outside levers on classroom doors locked at all times. It’s less convenient, but a closed door = a locked door if all teachers follow the policy. We’ll know more about the locks in Florida once the detailed reports are released.

      For a facility with classroom security locks, I would key all of the inside cylinders alike, distribute keys to all staff including substitute teachers, and make sure the teachers carry their key and are comfortable using it (drills). The facility could adopt a policy to keep all of the doors locked, but this is less convenient and harder to monitor/enforce in a campus setting. I have seen some schools changing the inside cylinder to a thumbturn, but this depends on whether the school is concerned about unauthorized lockdown.

      – Lori

  5. Jim says:

    What are barricades supposed to protect you against? Zombies?

    You can’t shoot off a lock without special shotguns and ammo. And it still takes several shots and time. You aren’t shooting commercial grade 1 lock open with a rifle. That only happens in the movies.
    This is why usually explosives are the breaching tool of choice for SWAT and military.
    Ask them.

    And someone explain to me where in a classroom a teacher is supposed to store, (let alone locate in time and effectively deploy) a big complex hunk of steel.

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