Last year, I wrote about whether state funding to increase school security was allowed to be used for classroom barricade devices. Although this is not specifically stated in many grant program guidelines, security products must comply with the adopted codes and standards. Most classroom barricade devices do not meet the requirements of the model codes or accessibility standards.
When this question arose in Wisconsin, the Department of Safety and Professional Service issued a bulletin stating that it is not permissible to use security devices that are separate from the door hardware, causing the door to require more than one releasing operation to unlatch. A bill has since been proposed in the Wisconsin state legislature which would circumvent the adopted codes and the department’s response, in order to allow classroom barricade devices.
Wisconsin Assembly Bill AB 44 states: “This bill provides that the Department of Safety and Professional Services may not prohibit, and a city, village, or town may not enact or enforce an ordinance that prohibits, a public or private elementary or secondary school from installing a barricade device on an interior door in the school building.” The bill includes some additional criteria for the use of barricade devices, which can be found here.
Similar to a bill that was the topic of a recent hearing in Massachusetts, the Wisconsin bill faces opposition from state code officials as well as from the Office of School Safety. The video below includes the hearings for several bills – the discussion of AB 44 begins at the 0:02:40 mark and continues until 1:54:00. Although it’s a lot of testimony to listen to, it is well worth the time for anyone who is making decisions about classroom security. I have noted some important points below the video.
0:13:50 – Rep. David Crowley asks about barricade devices being misused egregiously, to lock people inside of schools. The response is that doing so would be against the law. Given the crime statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics, misuse of the devices is an important consideration.
0:19:00 – Rep. Mark Spreitzer says that he prefers to maintain the requirement for local decisions to be made by the school board, law enforcement, and fire officials. A proposed amendment to the bill would require schools to have approval from law enforcement or fire officials, in order to “streamline the process.”
0:19:30 – Rep. Cindi Duchow asks if it is currently illegal to deadbolt a door. The response is that it’s against the fire code (“I don’t know if you’d call that illegal”). The representative also mentions that the state grants actually paid for schools in her district to buy barricade devices.
0:22:20 – Rep. Jodi Emerson asks about statistics on fire fatalities. Although it’s true that fatalities in school fires are very rare now, there was a time when school fires with dozens of fatalities occurred. Fires in schools are not uncommon – NFPA reports that there are an average of almost 5,000 fires in educational occupancies each year. The reduced number of fatalities is related to strong code requirements and enforcement.
0:22:50 – Rep. David Steffen asks about the source of this idea to use barricade devices. The response is that if you google these devices there are all sorts of different configurations. The availability of these products gives the impression that they are acceptable to use, even though they are unregulated and do not comply with the adopted codes in most states.
0:24:30 – Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt was principal of a private school, where administrators wanted to use the safety grant to purchase barricade devices. He mentions that this was a high priority for parents, but also talks about another school which installed bolts to lock the doors, and the “large degree of shenanigans with students locking teachers out of the classroom.”
0:34:30 – Deputy Director of the Office of School Safety, Glenn Rehberg discusses the public safety risks and accessibility challenges posed by barricade devices. He states that for funding, security devices must meet the adopted codes and standards, citing as the primary reason that locked classroom doors have been proven incredibly effective and have not been defeated in a school shooting. He also references the many incidents where hostages have been taken in schools, when barricades have been used to delay the response of first responders. He says, “At first glance, how can this not be a great idea?” but goes on to say that research exposes the potential unintended consequences, and mentions that a lot of law enforcement agencies have retracted support for barricade devices.
0:44:45 – Rep. Sheila Stubbs asks about the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The response is that the Department of Justice is expected to comply with the law, and that the respondent has not yet seen a barricade device that complies with the ADA standards.
0:45:35 – Rep. David Steffen asks about statistics regarding barricading being used in school shootings to prevent access by law enforcement. The response is that two examples of incidents where barricading techniques were used to delay law enforcement access are Virginia Tech, and the West Nickel Mines Amish Schoolhouse. Platte Canyon High School was the site of another school shooting where a classroom door was barricaded. After each of these incidents, the media reported on law enforcement’s difficulty in responding to the threat.
0:47:20 – Ted Hayes, Senior Risk Manager of M3 Insurance discusses 7 room security controls that he recommends, along with concerns about the misuse of barricade devices.
1:01:01 – Law enforcement officers, including an ALICE instructor, discuss the need for added security, and law enforcement’s ability to unlock barricade devices from the outside. Their statement talks about defeating door locks, with one officer stating that he has easily kicked doors in and shot locks off. They clearly believe that barricade devices provide more security than traditional locks. When a legislator describes a type of electrified lock, the officers note that most schools can not afford this technology.
1:18:45 – Bill Sullivan, a fire protection engineer and assistant fire chief, who is also a father of school-aged children and the husband of a teacher, speaks about available hardware that is easy to deploy, intuitive to operate, relatively inexpensive, and code-compliant. He also talks about the importance of having a balanced approach to all hazards, the difficulty of deploying barricade devices in an emergency, and potential delays for emergency responders.
1:30:30 – Shawn Boerst of LaForce does a great job of explaining the code requirements, the reasons behind them, and the code-compliant solutions that are available, as well as offering help to the committee going forward.
1:36:20 – Blake Karnitz, Fire Inspector for the Cedarburg Fire Department, discusses community risk reduction (CRR), the changes made to the 2018 edition of NFPA 101 relevant to classroom security, as well as NFPA 3000 – Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program. His testimony includes a lot of valuable insight; here is one portion:
“What is the true goal of this bill? Is the true intent of passing this to increase school safety and security? Or is it just to say that you’re doing something? If this bill is intended to increase security, then why are the classrooms the only concern? What about the bathrooms, the libraries, the cafeterias, the hallways? This bill would let those in passing be left to fend for themselves against an active shooter, still leading to death. What will this bill change?”
Additional people testified or registered in opposition to the bill. Hopefully the Wisconsin state legislature will carefully consider the testimony of those who shared their expertise at the hearing.
If you are part of a company or organization in Wisconsin and would like to assist with school security efforts as this bill continues to move through the state legislature, get in touch with me.
This presentation – WN@TL – School Safety in America: Rhetoric vs Reality – David Perrodin – offers a perspective that is worth listening to, regarding school security.
For additional information on classroom barricade devices, refer to the whitepaper from the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS).