Question Of The Week: Do Door Barricades Compromise School Safety?

Concerns about school safety have led to the installation of non-code compliant and possibly dangerous classroom door barricade devices.

Door barricade devices in schools are intended to keep dangerous individuals out of classrooms; but what if that person is already in the room? To highlight the dangers of these devices and to provide assistance in better understanding secure and safe classroom door openings, the Door Security & Safety Foundation (DSSF) has created a short educational video.

school safety
Image: DSSF

In response to school shootings, several states have or are considering changes to their building codes to allow for the installation of classroom door barricade devices. These devices are perceived to provide additional security, but they have the significant potential to facilitate unintended consequences when incidents of bullying, harassment, or physical violence take place.

DSSF has launched a campaign, “Opening the Door to School Safety,” to raise awareness and to educate school administrators about the importance of safely securing classroom doors with code compliant methods.

“Safety isn’t just about closing the door, it’s also about opening the door,” said Jerry Heppes, CAE, CEO of DSSF. “Security should never take priority over life safety; they must work hand in hand, especially during an emergency situation. Classroom door barricade devices violate building, fire, and life safety codes and can easily be misused by someone inside the room intending to cause harm.”

Classroom door barricades prevent access by school staff or emergency responders and delay egress in the case of emergencies such as a fire, which is greater than three times more likely to happen than an active shooter situation.

school safety
Image: DSSF

School shootings, although widely publicized, are rare. Cases of school bullying and harassment are not. According to the National Center for Education, in 2012, students ages 12–18 were victims of more than 1.37 million nonfatal victimizations at school, including 615,600 thefts and 749,200 violent acts; 89,000 of which were serious violent victimizations.

“While the foundation and its supporters are all very concerned and devastated by the active shooting tragedies and agree that schools must be safe havens for students, faculty, and visitors alike, we believe that a safe solution can be achieved within the proven building code process,” said Heppes.

There are numerous traditional locking products manufactured today by a variety of companies that provide specifically designed classroom security locking functions that meet the code requirements for providing life safety in addition to security. These products allow the door to be locked from the inside of a classroom without requiring the door to be opened, yet allow authorized access by staff and emergency responders in case someone inside the room intends to cause harm or injury.

What security measures has your school put in place to protect students and staff in the event of a school shooting? Do they conflict with other safety and security concerns or efforts at the facility? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.