Ohio Board of Building Appeals Rules Against Door Locking Devices

Ohio Board of Building Appeals denied a variance request by Southwest Licking School District for a security device that blocks classroom doors during a lockdown event, saying that the device violated state fire codes.

There are numerous door blocking devices on the market, many of which raise questions about whether a district might be trading one problem (preventing an intruder) for another (limiting the capabilities of occupants to evacuate a classroom).  Another equally pressing question also needs to be raised – could the money being spent on buying “stuff” be better spent training staff and students in (no-additional-cost) effective strategies to save their lives in a variety of potential crisis events.

Door blocking devices range from $50 to $500 per door (multiply that number for each classroom door). They are designed for one purpose and one specific event – an active shooter. For a fraction of that price, all school stakeholders could be trained in a variety of FEMA and Department of Education recommended strategies for responding to threats ranging from an active shooter, to a severe weather event, to a medical emergency.

There are legitimate concerns in many schools about the capabilities of classroom doors to be locked from the inside, rather than requiring an occupants to go out into the hallway to key-lock the door. Again, there are low to no-cost strategies to mitigate this problem – and these procedures require training. One of these is a $5  magnet-type mechanism that keeps the door latch from engaging but can be quickly removed when the room needs to be secured.

Perhaps most alarming is the prevailing notion that it will take a piece of hardware to make people feel safe.  One student told newsnet5.com the aftermarket lcoking devices in her classrooms “are like an added peace of mind. It’s like a comfort seeing them because now that they're in place I would hope they would always work the way they needed to.”

Students and staff would have greater peace of mind if they had been empowered, trained, and practiced in evacuation, barricade, and a host of other response procedures that will assist them in saving their own lives, rather than relying on a piece of hardware sitting in a classroom. Let’s spend money on people, not stuff.