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Aug 18 2014

School Shootings – A Closer Look at the Statistics

Category: School SecurityLori @ 12:15 pm Comments (10)

Back in June I shared a graphic and a link to an article in the Huffington Post, which stated that there had been 74 school shootings since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.  Every school shooting is disturbing, but seeing a number like 74 shootings is enough to drive schools to use any methods possible to protect students and staff from the imminent threat of an intruder.  As we’ve discussed before, many of the security devices being employed by schools are not code-compliant, and/or not a good long-term solution.

Since this statistic from Everytown for Gun Safety first surfaced, several media outlets have discussed the figures and established that there were actually 15 school shooting incidents in that time period, not 74:

A closer look: How many Newtown-like school shootings since Sandy Hook? – CNN

Without starting a debate about gun control, the discrepancy in these figures does support my belief that while we need to be prepared for school shooters, we can’t forget about the thousands of other crimes that happen in schools each year, including assault, theft, vandalism, and sexual assault.  Some schools are installing locks on classrooms which can be locked by anyone – staff member, student, parent, or perpetrator.

The Massachusetts Task Force Report on School Safety and Security was recently published and presented to Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick.  There are very limited recommendations relative to physical security in the report, and one of the recommendations is for classroom doors to be lockable without a key (I disagree):

“An assessment of classroom doors should be conducted regularly. All classroom doors in a school should open out (as opposed to open in to a classroom) and have the ability to be locked from inside the classroom, without the use of a key. This will enable the adult in charge to lock a  door without leaving the classroom. The installation of doors and locks should be in accordance with all relevant local and state fire codes.”

I spoke to a representative from a large school district, and when I asked if their district allowed retrofit security devices or the ability for unrestricted lockdown, his response was this:

“We do not allow, nor do we have any locks which can be locked without the use of a key (ie. thumbturns, push buttons etc.).  If we see any of these locks when we do inspections, they are removed immediately.  Locking a door without a key allows students to lock teachers and staff out, leading to unruly behavior or unlawful acts.

If the teachers buy a retrofit device and we see it on an inspection, it’s coming with us. Retrofit devices can be as simple as a wood wedge, hasp and padlock, slide bolts, hook and eyes etc. Anything that adds another manual function to open a door goes in the dumpster. The policy is citywide and covers elementary schools also.”

I know that some of you will agree with me (and the above-referenced school system) on this, and some will not.  I value your opinion, so if you have experience you’d like to share with regard to school security, please leave a comment below.

Thank you to Ed Shimpock of Seven Oaks Doors & Hardware for sending me the video link, and to David DeFelippo from Tsoi/Kobus and Associates and Ed Marchakitus from Cornell Storefront Systems for the link to the Massachusetts Task Force report.

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10 Responses to “School Shootings – A Closer Look at the Statistics”

  1. Chris Vanasdalan says:

    I agree with the rep from the school district that you quoted above. Classroom doors should NOT have thumb turns or push buttons that would potentially allow students to lock a teacher out. Fortunately there are other ways to lock a classroom door without a key.

    **Shameless plug alert**

    The Schlage CO-220 lets teachers remotely lock the door from across the room through the use of a key fob the teacher can wear around his/her neck, preventing students from getting access.

    Perhaps the district would be more receptive to a solution like this.

    Chris Vanasdalan – Manager of Corporate Communications, Allegion

  2. Jack Ostergaard says:

    We do work for a number of school districts. If a district opts to have keyless locking from the interior they also have to establish that unneeded or prank locking of the doors will result in a set disciplinary action. A 3 day suspension is common. It needs to become part of the schools’ culture along with the intruder drill. Access from the exterior also becomes an issue. The individual change key for each room is unacceptable (as well as being a keying nightmare)

  3. Pete Schifferli says:

    I also disagree vehemently with the Massachusetts Task Force on School Safety and Security. I recall a lawsuit in a large nearby district where a perpetrator locked a female student inside a school room and assaulted her. The district lost the case and paid dearly for their poor choice of hardware.

    Pete Schifferli

    • Lori says:

      Do you have any more information on that lawsuit? I’d like to read about it. Schools need to be aware of the risks.

  4. Nelson Dayton says:

    I personally agree with Massachusetts. The faster and the simpler a teacher can close that door and lock it the better. The locks should be keyed alike with all teachers and staff carrying the key, so a kid locking the door is just a minor inconvenience compared to possibly saving lives. In an intruder situation the prospect of getting the key, cramming it into the keyhole, deciding which way to turn the key, even with the marked rosettes, how far to turn it, and wondering if it is really locked or not is just too much to deal with.

  5. Sam Maglitto says:

    I think this is a horrible situation that has developed in the U.S.A. (and around the world)Security upgrades I think are a very short term measure, as major Gun reform is the key, I know this statement is highly contentious, and always brings mixed emotions, but having relatives in Texas (Most with Multiple Gun Cellars), I’m always on edge when I hear of shootings in that area. Stricter Gun Laws will reduce significantly these random killings we have seen the evidence over here,It has proven to be highly succesful in Australia, The right to Bear Arms is fundamentally flawed and outdated, as it allows Guns to easily fall into the hands of the people who are/have become disturbed, which is the case with 99% of these killings. From a hardware solution and short term fix, Electronic Security Access Control through High verification Credentials are a much more effective way to monitor movements of large groups of people into and through facilities, Access can be restricted to areas that only students have the right to be in, and restrict each student from areas they are not authorised to be in. Locking people out physically with keys has a whole range of issues and can be worse than the original problem. I still maintain readily available Guns off the Box store shelves is the result of these mass murders, high powered repeat (Automatic)firing guns should be removed from every store,and restricted from the general public, should only be used for Policing and Military forces.

  6. Mark Wolverton says:

    I still maintain that a second exit out of every classroom (similar to what any other assembly area has) is the correct way to handle this. Get the students outside and away from the shooter.

    Lack of feasibility is a stupid argument. Those same arguments were made about ADA and the early code adoptions. It’s well worth it know that students have a quick escape that doesn’t involve occupying the hallways where the shooter(s) are.

  7. James Caron, AOC says:

    Unfortunately more strict gun control laws may not be the end all solution (people get killed by guns, home made bombs, knife attacks and even cars used as weapons). And secondary exits may be a partial solution, but remember the Westside Middle School shooting 1998 (the kids pulled the fire alarm and the shooters were outside in the woods killed 5 and injured 10). Now being a father of 2 girls and a hardware person I disagree with MA task force. Although quicker locking of doors without the use of a key is “easier” to secure an opening I fear for a rise in school (student on student or even student on teacher) violence (has anyone seen the increase of videos teens are posting of kids beating kids or random people these days?). I fear students having the ability to lock a door would allow them enough time to physically or sexually assault a fellow student or teacher. The fact is we need to control the doors by staff and staff alone. The evidence on school violence (student on student or student on staff) is on a much larger rise than actual gun violence at schools. We cannot ignore the facts of one crime (that has higher statistics) for another crime (which has a much lower statistic). We need to find a balance to protect our children completely in their school environment!

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