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Jul 15 2014

WWYD? Classroom Vision Lite

Category: School Security,WWYD?Lori @ 10:04 am Comments (16)

Classroom 008Last weekend I was at a party and found myself across the table from an unsuspecting teacher-friend who had no idea that she was about to be grilled about the security procedures at her school.  Shilana* teaches 4th grade at an urban elementary school in Ohio.  I asked her what type of lockset she had on her classroom door, and from her description she has a classroom security lock and knows how to use it.  (This lock function can be locked from the outside or inside using a key, and allows free egress.)

She keeps the door closed and locked at all times – when she and the students are in the classroom and when they are not.  Interruptions are reduced because she takes her class to the restrooms as a group, and does not allow any adult to enter who is not wearing a visitor badge (except fellow staff members).  She carries her key as well as her access card for the exterior doors with her, along with a whistle and a two-way radio that connects to the office.  The kids know that in some intruder situations they will exit the school and go to their safe meeting place.  The school has a drill every two weeks – either a fire drill, a tornado drill, or a lockdown drill.  They are prepared.

Shilana told me about the row of cabinets in her classroom that she keeps empty in case she has to put students in them for protection, the table in her classroom that she keeps clear so she can tip it up and barricade the door – AND she also has one of the add-on security devices I’ve written about on this site.  I asked why she needed the table and the security device, and she exclaimed with passion – “because of the glass in the door!!”  Of course – someone could break the glass to gain access to the hardware, and the lock would be defeated – exactly what happened at the 2005 school shooting in Red Lake, Minnesota.

Most Board of Education standards mandate a vision lite or sidelite in each classroom door.  The accessibility standards require the bottom of the vision lite to be no more than 43 inches above the floor.  Where should the lite be placed within the width of the door (Shilana asked why it couldn’t be near the hinges), and what is the optimal size?  Should the lite have protective glass or muntins to divide it into smaller lites?  What should we, as an industry, be recommending?

WWYD?  I would really appreciate your insight.

Classroom Doors

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Photo:  Andrea Crawford, Reading Toward the Stars (Note: This is not Shilana’s classroom door.)

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16 Responses to “WWYD? Classroom Vision Lite”

  1. David Barbaree says:

    This is an excellent question. I like the divided narrow lite near the lock, but at least 8″ away from the lock edge. As I understand it, the purpose of the narrow lite is to avoid bashing the opening door into someone who may be standing behind it, but the breaking of the glass to gain entry is a valid concern.

  2. Rachel Smith says:

    Not sure what I would suggest, but I am impressed by your friend and her school. Please give her our kudos for working so hard to protect the children under her care.

  3. David R. DeFilippo says:

    what about decorative grilles or tougher glass

  4. Dan Poehler says:

    I suggest the use of thick polycarbonite glazing and keep the opening on the lock side. In my opinion the lite would not serve it’s purpose if located near the hinges.

  5. David Lutz says:

    The cost may be of concern, but there is a fire and security rated glass on the market.

  6. Curtis Meskus says:

    Here in MA, paper materials are not be permitted to cover an egress door or be placed within 5 feet of the door 527CMR section 10.09(5).

  7. Sue Stokke says:

    I have seen lights put on the hinge side. It looks really wierd at first but if it serves the purpose I’m sure it’s something we could get used to. I’m amazed at this school’s preparedness. Good for them!!

  8. Justin Ritter says:

    Having a flush door would create a bigger security risk in my opinion. I remember when my girls were younger, trying to go to the teacher’s room for conferences. The door was flush, and it had a closer, so the door had to be held open with a wood wedge. That was the only way to indicate that the teacher was available and not meeting with other parents at that time. If you have to prop the door open, then you have no security whatsoever.
    I’d prefer a narrow lite, centered as shown in your photo, with some kind of laminated glass. It’s not bullet-resistant (no such thing as bullet-proof), but better than standard tempered. Also, it’s too far from the lock to easily reach through a lite with broken glass and turn the inside lever to gain access.
    The other solution is a flush door with a security sidelite. It’s a standard sidelite with a self-closing, self-latching “door” – basically a panel that closes the access and site line of the sidelite.

  9. Chuck says:

    Did you ask Shilana* if the vision lite was wired glass?

    • Lori says:

      I didn’t, but it’s a new school so fingers crossed that they used code-compliant glazing. There was actually another teacher there and she said, “why can’t we get the security glass with the wires?” I’m a lot of fun at parties. 😀

  10. Ron Hansen says:

    I tend to agree with Justin regarding using laminated glass. When broken, it does not vacate the opening like a tempered glass would, and is much more economical than bullet resistant polycarbonates, which also require special lite kits to accomodate their normally thicker sizes.
    I believe that slowing or impeding the attacker’s entry is the most critical priority, and laminated glazing does just that. If fire rated, there are laminated glass products incorporating multiple layers of glass, that act similarly to the standard laminated when impacted, or worst-case, shot through.

  11. steve gettemeier says:

    Been studying school shootings since Littleton, CO. Have 30 schools in the Fire District (3 public school districts and a bunch of private schools). Been down this road with all of them. Has anyone tried to break the vision panel in fire rated door?? All classroom doors should have some type of fire rating and a lot still have the wire glass. The “bad guys” are looking for an open door, they are rattling door knobs and if they are locked moving on. Sure some of them have shot through the front door to enter the building but very few. Most of my classroom have doors that open in the direction of egress so blocking the interior of the door would only give the shooter something to steady their gun.

    All of the classroom doors are locked from the hallway side but can be opened from the classroom side. If someone wants to take the time to break the vision panel it will most likely render his gun useless and I would hang a bat next to the door and if they do get the glass to break and they shove their arm in trying to unlock the door have a baseball bat to break his elbow off of his body-That is what I told my daughter-in-law.

    The police are now suggesting some really crazy stuff, using a chain ladders out of upper windows, crawling out of hopper windows on the first floor, throwing pencils at the shooters.

    Looking for a couple of used classroom doors with the vision panels to see how hard it is to break through the glass.

  12. Jack Ostergaard says:

    Two thoughts – if the lite isn’t centered most people expect it to be on the lock side, which could be a factor in a smoky room. Second – side lites.

  13. Mark Wolverton says:

    All of the current safety measures are ridiculous. Classroom security locks, double cylinder exit devices, numerous other strange devices to barricade the door (a sleeve that fit over a parallel closer arm comes immediately to mind) do nothing more than trap students in a room that could be easily breached through vision lites or sidelites.
    I still think the only viable solution is a quick, protected second exit. An exterior classroom door, or a second passageway to an exit from upper floors. You want to get kids away from the danger, not hiding in a room hoping the danger passes by.

    • Lori says:

      I just wanted to clarify that classroom security locks and double cylinder exit devices do not trap students in a room – I don’t want others to misunderstand your comment. I like the idea of a second exit, but it is not always feasible, particularly with existing schools.

  14. David Sherpitis says:

    Use hurricane glass. Vision panel is necessary to see who you are opening the door for and to make certain you don’t open the door into someone

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