On Tuesday, I wrote about a bill that was passed by the Utah Senate, which would allow classroom barricade devices to be used in Utah schools. While most of you don’t live or work in Utah, the actions of state legislators can have a ripple effect that spreads to other states. So far, only two states – Arkansas and Ohio – have modified their codes in order to allow retrofit security devices that are not compliant with the model codes. In Arkansas, the change was made by the state legislature, despite the strong objections of the state fire marshal – who was also the top law enforcement officer in the state. In Ohio, the Board of Building Standards conducted months of hearings and research, ultimately concluding that the state codes should not be changed. They were forced by the state legislature to change the codes anyway.
I have been following the situation in Utah closely, and have contacted the senator who sponsored the bill, as well as the state fire marshal and others. The bill has moved very quickly, with little time for legislators to consider the potential unintended consequences of the bill. I am sure that the proponents of the bill have the best interests of the students and teachers in mind, but some of the information provided in the legislative hearings and committee meetings was not accurate.
For example, here are some quotes from the Senate Education Committee meeting:
“Right now, in any of our school districts, in any of our charter schools, or for the state charter school board, or the state school board, if our educators decided they wanted to move towards installing locks on the doors to protect students in an active-shooter situation, they are blocked from state law by doing so.” (9:43) [LG Comment: Schools are not prohibited from installing locks, but locks must comply with the adopted code requirements for free egress, fire protection, and accessibility.]
At 10:55, a clip is played from what sounds like a press conference with a law enforcement official from Sacramento, regarding the school shooting in Rancho Tehama. Although the officer talks about the results of the locked doors, I didn’t hear him say anything about classroom barricade devices – these methods are not compliant with California state codes. After the officer speaks (13:43), the senator states, “The only lockdown that a school could do right now is to lock the exterior doors. And so, if someone penetrated an exterior door in Utah right now, they could go from classroom to classroom to classroom, and the children and the teachers would be just sitting in there waiting to be shot at. There’s no locks on the insides of the doors of the classrooms. A teacher can’t lock the door – they could maybe try to barricade it, they could push their desk against it and things like that, but our current building and fire codes prevent those locks from being installed.” [LG Comment: Code-compliant locks on classroom doors will provide the necessary protection for students and teachers. Locks to prevent access by an intruder are NOT prohibited by the building codes and fire codes.]
At 14:36, the senator states, “Before I show you this next video, I want to tell you that Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York, have all adopted similar exceptions to the International Building Code and the International Fire Code that I’m proposing that Utah adopt.” [LG Comment: As I mentioned above, only Arkansas and Ohio legislators have forced changes to the state codes. Other states from the senator’s list – California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, and New York, have issued documents stating that locks used on classroom doors must be compliant with the model code requirements – barricade devices are not allowed in those states. Several other states that were not on the senator’s list have also issued documents reinforcing the requirements for code-compliant locks – Connecticut, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, and Tennessee. In a few states – Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, and New Jersey – some types of barricade devices are currently being allowed by the code officials, even though they do not comply with the adopted code requirements for those states, or with the ADA. The vast majority of states do not allow classroom barricade devices, including most of the states that were cited as having adopted similar exceptions to the Utah bill.]
The senator then shows a video from a manufacturer of classroom barricade devices. Since the recording is audio-only, we can’t see the video, but here is another marketing video from the same company.
After the presentation, there were no questions from anyone on the committee. The Utah state fire marshal spoke next. You can hear his testimony beginning at 18:57. The committee then voted unanimously to support the bill.
Here is the full audio from the Utah Senate Education Committee meeting:
Yesterday, there was a meeting of the House Education Committee, which addressed a few of the concerns associated with classroom barricade devices, including the lack of compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (1:38:10) and the potential for unauthorized use of the device (1:38:54). At 1:43:00, the Utah State Fire Marshal was given 5 minutes to speak. Because there were additional people waiting to give public testimony, the meeting will be continued this afternoon. If you don’t see the embedded audio below, click in the link at the beginning of this paragraph.