Selling Access Control for the Classroom

Safe School Week will be a national observation on Oct. 19-25 — now is the time for integrators to begin preparing what they are going to do to help increase both school safety and their own firm's recognition during that week. While past years have emphasized bullying and other safety issues, this year is a good time to raise the awareness of physical security in classrooms.

Classroom security, after all, is as critical to the safety of students and staff as perimeter access into a school itself. There are a lot of ways to lock a classroom door — unfortunately, many of the tactics employed today actually put staff and students at risk. It is important for school administrators to know which methods are effective and which should be avoided. Every school should meet or exceed the baseline of classroom security for products and protocol.

Of course, there are different options for implementing that baseline, depending on budget, staffing capabilities and potential risk factors —that's why your interaction is so important to school officials.

 

Baseline Classroom Security

When it comes to classroom security, it is imperative that teachers and staff can lock doors promptly for their protection and that of students. States are beginning to be proactive in defining what it means to provide classroom security. California, for example, established a law in 2011 (AB 211, Article 8.5) that requires classrooms and rooms with an occupant load of more than five people to be equipped with classroom security locks.

Available in both mechanical and electronic options, these locks retract via a latchbolt using a knob/lever from either side, unless the outside is locked by key from either side. When locked, the latchbolt retracts by a key outside or the knob/lever inside. An auxiliary latch deadlocks the latchbolt when the door is locked. The inside lever is always free for immediate egress.

According to Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI, a codes expert at Allegion and author of idighardware.com, classroom security locks are ideal in the school environment because they do not impede egress. The door may be opened from the inside by simply turning the lever, even when the door is locked. The key cylinder on the inside is used to lock the outside lever only. Additionally, because a key is required to lock the door, it prevents students and others who don’t have access to the key from locking the door. This is important to classroom safety because there is actually a higher likelihood of student-on-student or student-on-teacher violence than that of an outside intruder.

In addition to classroom lockdown, classroom security locks help aid in preventing disturbances in hallways from expanding to classes, improving building security during after-hours facility use, securing contents during non-school hours and providing environmental consistency throughout a building.

 

Additional Classroom Safety Measures

While classroom security locks provide the first layer of defense, they should not be the only access control tactic used and emphasized to ensure classroom safety. Additionally, schools should:

  • Keep doors closed, except during changing periods;
  • Keep doors locked while rooms are in use, which enables faster lockdown in emergency situations;
  • Consider bullet-resistant film/shades; and
  • Develop a safety plan, including staff protocol and places to hide.

 

Be a Trusted Advisor

Here is the big problem — in an effort to do something for security, many schools have done things that are counterproductive. They have undertaken some measures that not only don’t mitigate risk, if anything, they put staff and students in greater danger. Here is where the security integrator comes into play — by becoming a school’s trusted security advisor, integrators could offer to check for such problems and explain to school officials why they are unsafe. Be on the lookout for:

  • Hardware requiring an individual to step out of the room to lock the door, increasing exposure to an intruder or conflict in the hallway.
  • Hardware with “unrestricted ability” to lock or unlock the door, allowing anyone — including students — to take control of an opening.
  • Magnets or tape on the door to prevent latching (violation of fire code) and that require the door to be opened to remove.
  • School doors that don’t automatically close, possibly preventing them from being in ready position in an emergency lockdown or propped open.
  • Hardware that is not permanently attached to the door, requiring staff to locate and attach the device in the midst of a lockdown emergencywhere seconds count and physical and emotional stress is extreme.
  • Hardware that slows access or egress during an emergency situation.
  • Deadstop devices or sleeves which clasp around the v-shaped hinge attached to the closer mechanism on doors (violation of fire code).
  • Floor bolts or other devices that obstruct the door.
  • Anything that blocks entrance to emergency responders.
  • Any option that might be accessed or used by an unauthorized person (student, visitor or another staff member) acting with ill-intent.

Additionally, this is a good time to educate the end-user on access control options and features that are available today. Inform officials on the three types of lockdown hardware — manual, remote and centralized. Most will be aware of how keys, the most economical solution, will manually lock down a room or space; however, very few will be aware of remote lockdown solutions that let them upgrade without the cost of a networked system. They typically show interest in how a lockdown can be activated by a remote fob kept by the teacher from anywhere in the classroom. Others, already having access control software, may not understand how classroom doors can be locked down from a central location just like the perimeter doors.

Integrators will also find that many school administrators don't know that security locks can include visual indicators, which provide at-a-glance verification of the locked/unlocked status of the door from inside of the classroom. They will quickly understand how, in K-12 schools, indicators also should be part of the overall security plan. With indicators on locks or exit devices,an opening can be quickly assessed — from a distance — to determine if it is locked. The convenience of visual indicators to assess a lock saves time and alleviates confusion in the event of an emergency.

Regardless of a school’s available budget, there are always safety measures that can be taken to minimize threats of violence. There are avenues to fund door hardware upgrades that will provide the right type of security for schools today. In addition to state and federal grants, many schools take advantage of the federal government’s Cooperative Purchasing program to secure discounted pricing and pre-vetted vendors. These options can help you help them make decisions that will enhance security and mitigate risk for local students.

 

April Dalton-Noblitt is Director of Vertical Marketing for Allegion. Reach her at April.Dalton-Noblitt@Allegion.com. To request more information about Allegion, please visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10215684.

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