Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
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Email: lori_greene@allegion.com, Blog: www.idighardware.com or www.ihatehardware.com


Apr 17 2018

News: Locking classrooms becomes latest safety measure in schools

Category: Locks & Keys,School SecurityLori @ 12:49 am Comments (19)
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Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I have thought a lot about lock functions for classroom doors; the news reports and the testimony from Parkland teacher Stacey Lippel added some new perspective.  I highly recommend reading the full testimony, but here is a brief excerpt explaining what happened after the students and teacher exited the classroom upon hearing the fire alarm, and then realized that they needed to go back and shelter in the room:

“I quickly turned around, unlocked my door and then very quickly ensured that the lock was back in a locked position so that when I shut the door, it would already be locked from the outside. (I don’t know how else to describe this action, but it’s very important because it truly saved my life and my students’ lives.)”
From this and all of the other reports I’ve read, I believe that this school had traditional classroom function locks – with a key cylinder on the outside only – and that the school had set a policy for the doors to be kept locked at all times.  Closed and locked doors saved lives in Parkland.  Spokane Public Schools recently announced that they will be testing a similar policy for the rest of the school year.  Even though the school district has updated classroom doors to classroom security locks – which can be locked from the inside with a key – the outside levers will be kept locked.  From the Spokesman-Review:
“Morrison said the district also installed the locks that were designed to prevent someone from entering the classrooms. However, to comply with fire codes, the doors allow teachers and students to open them from inside at anytime in order to leave.

‘We don’t want to lock people in. The idea is to keep people who shouldn’t be in the classroom from coming in,’ Morrison said. ‘Obviously for all of us in today’s world, it’s a shift. But what extra steps can we all take to add that extra layer of security?’

Lewis and Clark High School Principal Marybeth Smith announced to students last week that the locked doors will be part of their routine starting after spring break.”

Lancaster County, South Carolina has adopted a similar protocol, and so has the Kent Washington School District.  At Chemeketa Community College, traditional classroom locks were changed to storeroom function locks, so the outside lever is always locked.

With any type of locks used on classroom doors, there’s the question of what happens to students and teachers left on the corridor side when the doors are locked.  This article from The Guardian details the impossible choice faced by Parkland teachers during the shooting.  This problem exists regardless of the type of lock used.

I would like to know your preferred lock function for classroom doors, and why.  Is there any way to address the problem of students and teachers being locked out of the classroom?  Please leave a comment in the reply box.

  • A) outside lever locked at all times
  • B) outside lever locked by push button or thumbturn on inside
  • C) outside lever locked by a key in the inside cylinder
  • D) electrified lockdown – local (lock one or more doors from the classroom)
  • E) electrified lockdown – remote (lock all doors from the office)
  • F) other

School administrators, facility managers, locksmiths, and others are looking for this information and would benefit greatly from your insight.

19 Responses to “News: Locking classrooms becomes latest safety measure in schools”

  1. Jack Ostergaard says:

    Most of the school districts we work with have opted for key on the inside with doors left unlocked until needed. Teachers are required to have their keys at all times often on a lanyard with their ID. Several have opted for thumbturns. These have laid out strict rules to the students about when this can be turned (locked) and the very strict consequences for unauthorized use. In buildings that have not been changed over to new lockset systems ie traditional classroom function doors are kept locked. Unfortunately no one can afford electronic systems for every classroom although some have done cross corridor doors.

  2. Austin Bammann says:

    I’ve talked to numerous educators about keeping doors locked and I’m always met with the same response. “We don’t keep our doors shut and locked because we don’t want to have to open the door for late students.” What’s more important? Keeping a door secure and sometimes being inconvenienced or having the piece of mind that your room is secure at all times? It’s simply a matter of holding students accountable for being on time as well as well having a solid plan in the unlikely event of an intruder.

  3. Joe Prosser says:

    My preference after thinking about the reentering the room issue would be for doors to be locked at all times (storeroom function). Teachers must carry a key at all times (along with other staff in the building). In the event of a lockdown/evacuation, doors shall be left open when evacuating the room. This would allow easy reentry if necessary to escape an active shooter. Regardless of open/closed state of door, a teacher with a key should be able to get into any room nearby.

  4. Joe Prosser says:

    Additionally, many of the schools we’ve been working on lately have secured building pods with classrooms that either have no doors on them or doors that would not conceal/secure students during an active shooting. The idea is that the entire pod is locked down and the individual classrooms are not. Their focus is on securing the building and evacuation as priority number on under the extremely unlikely active shooter situation.

  5. RB Sontag says:

    Function and Why??
    It is not what my preference is, but rather the School District Preference that I’m working with.
    I have districts that use the following functions on every classroom door within their prospective schools.
    1) ND53 Entrance/Office Function, because it allows staff & students the ability to lock the door from the inside.
    2) ND80 Storeroom Function, because when the door is closed its locked and staff doesn’t have to do anything but hide.
    3) ND75 Security Classroom Function, because they want the staff to have the ability to lock the door from the inside and still have key control.
    4) CO-100-KP-70, because it allows the staff to keep the door locked and ability to enter without a key.

    Some of these function would not be my first or second choice. The districts have been educated as to what my preference would be, but it’s still their choice and addresses their specific needs and challenges they face with staff and money.

  6. Bill Cushman says:

    Last night, our School District (Clay County, Florida), had a special information session Q&A at our local high school to discuss this ongoing issue of school safety.

    I arrived fully expecting there to be a discussion about locking systems, barricade devices, fencing, etc. However, it went down a COMPLETELY different path. The school board is limited by money. This is all about money. So, the entire issue boils down to a simple issue. If you only have a specific budget, where will you invest?

    The resounding answer was – Law enforcement presence.

    I literally heard people say, “who cares about the locks or the fences or the devices. If a bad person wants to hurt children, they will find a way to do it.” The general consensus was that by increasing the number of actual physical law enforcement officers at the school, this would provide the increased security that is desired. After all, which thing would more prevent a person from becoming violent? A lock or a cop with a gun?

    I was all ready to jump into a conversation about classroom locks, etc. Turns out that most people aren’t thinking about locks like us Hardware geeks.

  7. Andy Lindenberg says:

    Definitely “A”. I worked on a School District recently that opted for Storeroom function locks, but also added wall magnets to allow them to keep the door open legally without wedges. We’ve all walked the halls of schools an seen doors propped open. A wall magnet gives them multiple options. The door can be propped open most of the time. If there was some event that caused concern, the door can be pull out of hold open and is immediately locked from the outside. No fumbling with keys. Taking it a step further with some cost associated would be to add a panic button at a determined location inside the Classroom that would allow the door to be closed and locked without physically going to the door.

    Yes, there is a little inconvenience if an individual needed to enter the room when the door was closed, but I think that’s minor compared to the functionality you get. The other benefit is that the door will close upon fire alarm activation, so they’re protected in case of fire.

    I have no good answer for someone left out in the hall during a lockdown. Maybe designating a “safe” room would be a possibility. A multi-stall bathroom comes to mind. As part of the lockdown drills, students can be taught if they are locked out of a room, they look for the nearest bathroom, go inside and go into a stall and stand on the toilet. The chance of an intruder looking in the Bathroom is small, but even if they did, it would look like no one was there. Just a thought.

  8. John Dalrymple says:

    There is no “one” answer Lori. But the principle of allowing the door to be locked remains paramount.

    How the door gets locked must be resolved between the user group and the hardware specifier. And if the specifier fails to meet the real needs of the user group, the user group will provide their own “solution”, these dangerous barricade devices.

  9. Josh says:

    I’m not a big fan of Storeroom Locks on Classroom doors. We all know that teachers should carry their keys with them at all times, but honestly how often will that happen. If a teacher steps out of the classroom and forgets their key this now creates the potential for situations to occur on the inside of the classroom and not be stopped in a timely manner. I’m a bigger fan of the Classroom Security locks so the opening can be locked from either side by a key. Out of all the choices option C would be my choice.

  10. Jon says:

    Lori,

    We did an active shooter training session in my children’s Elementary School a few years ago in which we demonstrated a couple of problems with their locks. I believe all of the classrooms had the ND53 locksets someone mentioned earlier.

    The training session scenario put the teachers in a position to have to decide whether they should open their classroom door to save some children “locked out” in the hall way. We informed them that if the push/turn door lock setting was incorrect and they opened the door it wouldn’t be locked any longer. We videotaped their responses in each of the rooms and sure enough one brave teacher opened his door and snatched three kids from the hallway without realizing he unlocked it. The intruder opened the door a minute later, walked in the room and informed those present many of them would be shot and or killed.

    As for the second problem I’d rather not be specific. I will say there was a popular action movie released several years ago in which the bad actor was able use the door lock to barricade his victims into the room. I’ve since tested what was clearly depicted in the movie and can execute the process in less than 5 seconds.

    We demonstrated both of these issues to the School District Administrators for their consideration as well as my States DHS Director and the State Police for their general information.

    At the very least I’d suggest that anyone advising “School administrators, facility managers, locksmiths…” should make their clients aware of the first issue I described above.

  11. Roger Yost says:

    The school district where I live also has the policy of keeping the doors locked at all times, but during school a 2″ long bar magnet is placed on the door frame to prevent the lock from latching. During a lock down procedure, the teacher or someone else goes to the door to pull out the magnet from between the door and frame. The problem I see with this is the bar magnet is only 1/4″ in diameter and if someone forces the door so the lock latches with the bar magnet between the door and frame, they may experience a lock-out/lock-in where the lock won’t open from the inside or the outside due to the extra pressure on the latch. I’ve heard this happened to a school in Florida caused by a vice principal, who pulled harder on a door when the door didn’t fully close behind him as he entered a classroom. It’s just another one of those pesky unintended consequences.

    • Andy Lindenberg says:

      Don’t forget if it’s a fire door, it must latch at all times. Any method of blocking the door from closing and/or latching violates the fire code.

  12. André says:

    I’m a teacher (who happens to also be a hardware geek). My classroom lock is a classic classroom function with no inside cylinder. The best type would be the classroom security with the inside cylinder.

    In my case (other teachers in my school don’t share this opinion), I keep my door locked at all times, and my keys in my pocket at all times when not in use. My door has no closer, so it is open about half the time. When I close it, usually it’s because of distractions in the hallway. As for late students, the more inconvenient I can make it for them to arrive late, the better in hope they will learn punctuality (not always effective but I try).

    So, why not a storeroom lock ? Sometimes, I unlock the door, when lots of students would be coming and going for whatever reason (usually when I have an invited guest). Also, I keep it unlocked during parent teacher night so that if someone would start being nasty, other teachers nearby could come in freely.

    Electrified options are nice and all, but I know the school district would not maintain it properly and it could become a safety hazard when something fails.

    A side note : I started my teaching job in a different school. That school had standard classroom locks as well. The principal INSISTED that EVERY classroom door be UNLOCKED all day, no exceptions. I questioned him about it and he replied that it was “against the code” which unfortunately I never asked to see.

    • Lori says:

      Thanks so much, André – this is great feedback! I have thought about parent-teacher nights as a potential time when the door might be left unlocked for convenience…I’m sorry that teachers have to be concerned about someone being nasty. 🙁

      – Lori

  13. PAUL BARIL says:

    B
    I normally advise my clients;
    1.school policy should be to keep doors locked at all times. easy to close doors during a lock down.
    2. standard entry lock with push button or thumbturn. easy to lock. easy to verify function of lock. When the adrenaline is pumping, looking for keys, inserting the key with trembling hands and locking the doors is problematic.

  14. Jon says:

    Sounds like I need a configurable door lock with a default “locked” condition that can be set at installation (and not easily overridden) with an inside push button lock feature that allows egress but doesn’t unlock the door if it’s opened from the inside. Does such a beast exist?

  15. Kevin says:

    Lori,
    As much respect as I have for this issue and the industry that’s charged with installing the locks, I have a read all the responses and I am sort of disheartened with the biggest response that is NOT here. Not one response added the fact that there should not be a discussion on installing ANY lock without the local AHJ’s input. Lori you recently showed us a story and a picture of the college campus that spent a large amount of money to purchase (on a grant if I’m not mistaken) and install locking devices only to have them removed because they were not code compliant. Many people have great intentions but if the locking devices are not approved and code compliant…. Nobody wins!! Thanks

    • Lori says:

      Hi Kevin –

      The locks I wrote about in this post all allow free egress and are code-compliant. Adding an additional locking mechanism would not comply with the model codes, for several reasons. But the intent here was to discuss the functions available for traditional locks. I agree with you though…before considering any lock or security device that does not meet the requirements of the adopted codes, the AHJ should be consulted. Thanks for your comment.

      – Lori

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