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.