a) In 2017, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal published guidance on their website regarding school security, including this statement: “For the safety of the school’s occupants, unapproved security devices should not be added to classroom doors. Manually operated flush or surface bolts are not permitted. Only one motion is allowed to open the door, such as turning the door handle. There are many products available on the Internet that are not code compliant. These include devices that slide under doors, lock door closer arms, prevent doors from latching, and surface bolts that slide into the floor or wall.”
b) A school district had hired a school security consultant who made recommendations for securing doors in 2015. Some doors were equipped with security devices that did not allow free egress, would not allow authorized access from the outside, were not listed for use on fire doors, and/or did not meet the accessibility standards. Most of these devices were removed in 2016/2017, but in 2018, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal enforced the adopted code and required the remaining non-code-compliant security devices to be removed (news story here).
c) Soon after that, a Tennessee sheriff began raising money to equip the schools in his town with classroom barricade devices, which created a conflict with the state’s adopted codes and the state fire marshal’s guidelines. The end result was that the Tennessee code requirements were changed, although there was still some confusion about how the adopted codes would allow barricade devices.
d) Today, I saw a news story from Fox 17 in Nashville about the schools in Perry County – where the sheriff raised money for barricade devices. The devices have now been installed on all 4 of the county’s schools. The interesting part that is not included in the news video, is the response from other school districts in Tennessee. For example:
Metro Public Schools: “MNPS does not have door stop technology in our schools,” MNPS Spokesperson Dawn Rutledge said. “Life Safety codes and International Building codes require classroom doors always be free from inside a classroom for emergency exit. Devices such as this would not allow that condition to exist. Concurrently, in the event a first responder needed to get into a classroom, a device such as this will prohibit emergency entry.”
Wilson County Schools: “We don’t use barricaded door hardware,” Wilson County Director of Safety Steve Spencer said. “The reason is, if you look at every school shooting since Columbine, no intruder ever successfully entered a LOCKED classroom door. As a part of our standard safety procedures, all classroom doors are to be closed and locked during instruction time and only left open during a class change. In the Parkland incident, the intruder did shoot through a classroom door window and a door but never shot out a lock. He never entered a LOCKED classroom. This action resulted in the term “Hard Corners” where it is recommended that students hide during an active shooter event. The barricaded door hardware will not stop a bullet from passing through a door.”
I’m so glad to see that some school districts are looking at both sides of the equation and taking the time to understand the safety concerns as well as security. What’s happening with school security in your neck of the woods?
Photo: WJHL News Channel 11
Screenshot: Fox 17 Nashville