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: