Are door bolts allowed to secure classroom doors during a lockdown?
First, let me explain what I mean by “door bolt.” For the purposes of this blog post, a door bolt is a surface bolt, or a similar product that can be used in addition to the lockset or latchset to secure a door in place. These bolts are sometimes used on the inactive leaf of a pair of doors, and on residential entrance doors. Some of the classroom barricade devices on the market are very similar to commercially-available door bolts.
Every major hardware manufacturer has a variety of door bolts in their catalog, including Allegion, but we would NEVER recommend a door bolt for classroom security.
a) Once a door bolt is projected, the door can not be opened from the outside – even by someone with the key to the lockset. This could allow someone to secure the classroom and take hostages during a shooting or to commit another type of crime. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017, US students aged 12-18 experienced approximately 827,000 non-fatal victimizations in schools. The ability to lock a classroom door and prevent access for school staff and first responders increases the risk and liability for school districts, and the danger for students and teachers.
b) In most states, classroom doors must be openable from the inside with one operation, with no key, tool, special knowledge or effort, and without tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. This ensures that doors are intuitive to operate and will allow immediate egress. Adding a door bolt to a door with existing latching hardware means that two operations will be required for egress. The bolt may be in a location where it would not be obvious and could delay egress during an emergency evacuation. And the door bolt may be difficult to retract – especially if there has been damage during a forced-entry attempt, or if there is pressure against the door from students trying to exit.
c) When a surface bolt projects into the floor or any location outside of the area located 34-48 inches above the floor, it is not within the reach range mandated by the accessibility standards and the life safety codes. Releasing hardware must be within this range in order to be usable by all building occupants, in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the adopted codes for most states.
Note: There are many products being marketed for use in classrooms that are similar in concept to a commercial door bolt. The concerns that keep hardware manufacturers from recommending surface bolts for classroom security also apply to other security devices that are being advertised for classroom doors. The adopted building codes and fire codes, as well as the accessibility standards, have been created to help ensure free egress and access for all building occupants. While securing classroom doors is important, the risk of a school shooting is much lower than the risk of other types of emergencies in schools. The locksets that are already present on the majority of classroom doors provide the security needed for classrooms, and comply with the building codes, fire codes, and accessibility standards.