Access control still lacking in many K-12 schools

March 26, 2015
Securitech president discusses current market trends in SIW Q&A interview

In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, there have been numerous proposals as to what steps need to be taken to better ensure the safety of students and faculty members inside the nation’s schools. Some have called for having an armed security presence in all schools, while others have focused their efforts on lobbying for increased gun control measures at both the federal and state level. However, one of the most fundamental, but often overlooked aspects of securing any school is making sure that adequate access control measures are in place to prevent a gunman from having unfettered entry to not only the building itself, but also individual classrooms.

In fact, in its final report submitted to Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission specifically emphasized the importance of schools having doors that can be locked from the inside by a teacher or substitute. "The Commission cannot emphasize enough the importance of this recommendation. The testimony and other evidence presented to the Commission reveals that there has never been an event in which an active shooter breached a locked classroom door," the report states.

One company looking to address this issue is New York-based access control solutions manufacturer Securitech, which recently introduced a new Quick Intruder Deadbolt (QID) that enables users to quickly lockdown classrooms with just the push of a button. SIW recently sat down with Securitech President Mark Berger, who also serves as chairman of the BHMA Codes and Government Affairs Committee and as administrator of ASIS Physical Security Council, to get his take on current access control trends in K-12 schools. 

SIW: Given your expertise in the education market, what do you think is the biggest shortcoming of schools when it comes to access control?

Berger: When you talk about schools and the issues that they have, the number one word that always comes up is “budget” and how they apply their funds. The question that every school district has to deal with is: Do they deal with the building or do they deal with education? In reality, schools were designed to be open campuses. They have to secure their facilities in such a way that doesn’t frighten the children and that is important.  

SIW: Despite much of the talk from many school districts about the need to bolster security measures, many of them fail to implement more robust solutions due to a lack of budget. What will it take for schools to actually start installing some of these recommended technologies?

Berger: Number one is parental demand and that is what all school districts have to respond to. Parents have to take the lead on this. You don’t want to be the district that waited for the horse to be out of the barn before you acted. You want to be proactive in this area. These are not radically expensive measures to take. If you use the castle and moat analogy, you realize that it doesn’t take a lot to secure a school, but you have to have a plan in place that it certainly within the length of any school year so that you could enact it to improve your security program.

SIW: Aside from budget, what has been some of the feedback you have received from school administrators and security personnel about some of challenges they face in securing their individual facilities against active shooters?

Berger: Part of it is just philosophical in changing how they look at the school. If you go to most facilities, they’ve really implemented the first level where… people are required to check in and show identification. The next thing was to secure the perimeter of the school with every door locked except for once entrance door and the entrance door would be like an intercom door at the entrance to an apartment building. You now have the same level of security as an apartment building where you buzz in someone and bring them to the office. That is becoming universally accepted and is the modus operandi in most schools that we’ve visited.

Almost every school district has changed the emergency drill response from lining up, moving in the corridor and going to the school yard to creating the safe haven in the classroom where everyone moves to an area, usually alongside the door, but far enough where somebody can’t look in (to see everyone) and then the next question is what do you do to fully create that safe haven in the classroom? That is where the discussions are going now. There are some fairly inexpensive options to do that, but they generally violate life safety code.

SIW: Do you think the recent Sandy Hook Advisory Commission report will have an effect on how schools approach access control?

Berger: It has certainly had an effect already in Connecticut. The question is in school districts that have not been personally affected, how seriously they are going to take these warnings and whether or not they are going to look at the statistics of school shootings that have occurred and of children that have come to school with knives and other weapons? Also, are they going to tie in the whole concept of safe havens to not only apply to intruders, but also the epidemic of bullying that we’re seeing in schools? 

SIW: How does the QID product work and how does it address the security needs of school districts across the country?

Berger: The Department of Homeland Security in January of 2012 released a report dealing with both terrorist acts in schools also school safety in general. In their report, which is very lengthy and very comprehensive, their number one recommendation was to secure the individual classes as quickly as possible in the event of school shooting or an intruder in the school. And to do it, it’s as simple as using a push-button lock on the door. That’s kind of interesting because in January of 2012, no product existed that did that. Then, of course, in December 2012 we had Sandy Hook. The Sandy Hook report that just came out specifically addressed the fact that a substitute teacher was unable to secure one of the classroom doors. Securitech really didn’t know about this DHS study, we just studied the issues that were out there and we independently came up with the idea that school districts want to be able to lock classroom doors as quickly as possible without blocking the door and making sure that it is 100 percent code compliant.         

About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.