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Jan 24 2019

Michele Gay on Classroom Security

Category: School Security,VideosLori @ 10:49 am Comments (3)

Click this image to watch Michele’s video on school security.

A few months ago, I posted a FEMA PrepTalk video of Michele Gay speaking about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, from the perspective of a parent who lost a child that day.  Today I share a new video from Michele and the organization she co-founded, Safe and Sound Schools.

In the email announcing the video, Michele wrote of a discussion that has undoubtedly taken place at countless schools across the country:

“At a recent school meeting, a parent was excited to share a revelation: perhaps those door-jamming mechanisms in hotels – the ones that swing into place – could be an easy, affordable way to secure doors at schools. While I love hearing suggestions from parents (after all, we all have a role to play in school safety), I had to explain why this type of solution actually puts students in danger, rather than protecting them. It broke my heart to dampen her enthusiasm, but I had to educate her about the importance of building and fire safety codes, Americans With Disabilities compliance, and unintended usage of barricade devices.”

Michele also addressed barricade devices in a list of requirements for classroom security in her recent blog post:

“Lastly – and this is especially difficult for many of us looking for inexpensive, quick door security solutions – it is important to resist the temptation to install door barricade devices in public places, like our schools. While the intention of these additional devices is to give an add a layer of security, they have the potential to enable bullying, harassment, or much worse when added to public spaces.”

I often hear from iDigHardware readers who are having these conversations in schools they work with, or where their children or grandchildren go to school.  While classroom barricade devices may seem like a good idea at first glance, it’s important to look at the potential problems with using security methods that do not comply with the model codes or the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Michele’s video and blog post are valuable tools to use during those discussions, and there are many others that are available on the School Security page of iDigHardware.  To learn more about school safety and get involved with safety discussions at your school, check out the Parents for Safe Schools Program, introduced in this blog post by the co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools, Alissa Parker.

If there are additional resources you need, or if you have questions about school security, I’d love to hear from you.

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3 Responses to “Michele Gay on Classroom Security”

  1. Jeff Kaye says:

    Great information. I agree a solid core door with a quality, code compliant lock that can be locked from the inside without opening the door is the best way to secure a classroom. But there is also a need for enhanced door security in certain areas of a school. For example, in school facility assessments, a common configuration we find is multiple classrooms attached to a common “pod” workroom area. The pod is accessed through a rear classroom door. This rear door, by code, can be locked from the classroom side but not from the pod side, as there has to be emergency egress from the pod through the classroom. This works for an evacuation, but also allows a violent intruder full access to each classroom leading from the pod through an unlocked door if they can access any classroom connected to the pod. Putting a door security enhancement device on the classroom side of the rear door allows us to secure these rear doors from unauthorized access during a lockdown, and also allows us to protect the students inside the rooms. The front, main classroom door is still available for use for emergency or ADA egress, as it is equipped with a code compliant lock.

    This is only one example of where a door security enhancement device can be safely used. They are also effective in creating safe rooms. There are exemptions in the codes for safe rooms used in a lockdown, as the school is now a place of confinement for reasons of safety. No door security enhancement device should be used in a school, unless is has function that allows emergency responders or school administration to open it from the outside. The barricading methods recommended by DHS violate these same building codes, and emergency responders cannot open the barricaded door from the outside. Barricading the door also violates ADA, so there are better solutions. Use of any door security enhancement device must also have an accompanying written use policy and related training to ensure safety.

    Our research shows no recorded incidents of bullying behavior or student fights occurring behind any door secured with an enhanced door security device. We would be interested in hearing about those incidents since they are referenced in videos and articles related to this blog and the Door Safety and Security Foundation site. Also, after action reports from the school killings referenced on the site do not show the killers used barricades, to the best of our knowledge. The VA. Tech killer did chain lock some perimeter doors, but that by no means is considered a recommended barricading device for use in schools. It does mirror some of the techniques being taught by training firms who teach securing doors with ropes or belts tied around door closers, but these are also not practical recommendations, as emergency responders cannot get through the doors.

    Having the school assessed by a qualified professional who does not sell any products is the only effective way to ensure vulnerabilities are addressed through proper use of a combination of all products and technology on the market. A school cannot be properly assessed by a vendor who will then try to sell you their products to address the vulnerabilities. An independent assessment by persons who do not profit from the target hardening recommendations is the only way to effectively secure a school while remaining in code compliance.

    Thank you again for this valuable information, and for all your group does for school safety.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Jeff –

      Thank you for your comment. I’m not sure if you were referring to me/the security industry when you said, “A school can not be properly assessed by a vendor who will then try to sell you their products to address the vulnerabilities.” Just in case, I’d like clarify that my job is not to sell anything – it is to provide education and support regarding building codes, fire codes, and accessibility standards. I work in code development, and I have consulted with countless schools and other facilities since I joined the industry in 1986. I’d also like to mention that just about every classroom door, exterior door, and doors serving assembly spaces in schools already have locksets or panic hardware. In many cases, there is no need for the purchase of anything new in order to secure those doors.

      I agree that there are some challenging situations in schools, such as the pod arrangement that you mentioned. The elementary school that my kids attended was an open plan school and had NO DOORS on classrooms. I would still make every attempt to find a code-compliant solution to securing the challenging areas, rather than defaulting to a device that places security above life safety.

      I don’t yet have a specific example of bullying occurring behind a door secured by a classroom barricade device. This may be because these types of incidents often go unreported and would not be widely publicized unless they resulted in a fatality or serious injury. The products are also relatively new, and are used in limited locations. But with just under 750,000 incidents of crime in US middle schools and high schools reported by the National Center for Education Statistics for 2016 (vs. 3 active-shooter incidents in schools reported by the FBI that year), we can’t ignore the possibility that non-code-compliant locking methods could impact a bullying situation, fight, or other school crime.

      You mentioned that a “recommended barricading device” (what is that?) was not used at Virginia Tech, but the methods used by the shooter to prevent law enforcement from entering did delay their response. Barricading was also used by the shooter at Platte Canyon High School and West Nickel Mines Amish Schoolhouse, and news reports shared the concerns of law enforcement officers who could not access the secured rooms or buildings in all 3 of these incidents. This study may also be helpful in your research: Barricaded Hostage and Crisis Situations in Schools: A Review of Recent Incidents; the study examined 19 such hostage situations that occurred between 1998 and 2007.

      I wish that we could all work together for the common goal of safely securing schools, rather than continuing to spend time discussing whether non-code-compliant security devices should be used instead of code-compliant security devices.

      – Lori

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        Hello Lori,

        I’d love to discuss this further with you. We all have the common goal of school safety as the end game. My team doesn’t sell any products and aren’t affiliated with any products, but we’ve done hazard and vulnerability assessments in 37 school districts in the U.S. and Canada in just this last year, and we see some disturbing things that sales people and trainers are putting out to schools. FBI stats are good, but they only track killings that fit into a certain criteria so these stats alone don’t reflect the current threat levels or security concerns. As a police supervisor, I was personally on scene at two school attacks that aren’t in the FBI stats, but there were fatalities none the less. The suspect in both were middle school students. My email address is attached to this reply. Feel free to contact me directly. Thanks and I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

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