Uvalde School’s classrooms lacked basic safety features—and it’s missing across America

Before Columbine, when classroom security concerns focused more on preventing theft than shooting, schools were usually designed with doors that could only be locked from the outside with a key . After the massacre—in which shooters were only able to access unlocked classrooms—schools across the United States began installing special classroom security locks, sometimes called “Columbine” locks.

Such locks allow teachers to secure their classrooms with a key on either side of the door. When the door is closed, no one can enter from outside the classroom, but the door can always be opened from inside by simply turning the knob. This allows students and teachers to leave the classroom freely at all times, as fire codes require.

Upgrades don’t come cheap – according to one industry estimate, the cost of installing a Columbine lock can range between $200 and $900 per door, although some older locks can be modified for less. But there’s a broad consensus among experts and school safety advocates that it’s a simple and effective solution that some school districts have left aside while they’ve spent millions on new protections. Amid pressure to “harden” schools, and in the absence of state or local requirements to upgrade locks, districts bought everything Despite everything from bulletproof whiteboards to artificial intelligence-powered gun detection devices less evidence That such products stop shooting.

“Instead of paying money to all these security companies, why not use it to replace the locks on the doors?” said Randy Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the leading labor union for teachers. The group co-authored a 2020 school safety plan with Everytown and the National Education Association for Gun Safety’s Research Division, which recommended that all classrooms have internal-locking doors.

Image: A Yale 5418LN Intruder Classroom Safety Lock Door Handle.
Since Columbine, experts have urged schools to install locks that can be secured on both sides.via american lock set

Restricting access to firearms is still their top priority, with groups saying the internal locks are important to prevent shooters from entering the school. “It’s less invasive than virtually any other type of security measure,” Weingarten said.

It’s “crazy” to step out of class to lock a door during a shooting, she said.

Uvalde’s school district did not respond to questions about the locks on its classroom doors or the shooting incident by Rob’s elementary teacher.

This issue has come up time and again after the school shootings: in 2007, a Virginia Tech gunman repeatedly entered classes which could not be locked from inside, while students and teachers struggled to lock the doors with their bodies and furniture; 32 killed.

The call for upgraded locks was revived after the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six teachers were killed by a gunman, and Marjorie Stoneman of Parkland in 2018. After the shooting at Douglas High School, Florida, in which a gunman killed 14 students and three members of staff. None of the schools had internally closed classroom doors.

A security commission convened after the Newtown massacre said “there has not been an incident in which an active shooter broke through a closed classroom door.” told in 2015Recommending security measures.

But the logistics and expense of installing these locks may deter districts from investing in them, said Amy Klinger, founder and director of programs for The Educator School Safety Network, a nonprofit group that helps protect districts from gun attacks. helps.

“Think about how many hundreds of thousands of schools there are in the United States and in each, you probably have 200 doors,” she said. “The scope of this becomes incredibly expensive and overwhelming to try to standardize.”

No state requires all schools to have internal locks, although some do recommend it, and a wave of school security grants often follows a shooting. But even when new funds are available to them, schools still struggle to decide what to prioritize.

“School districts and administrators are overwhelmed by the number of options and solutions,” said Cedric Calhoun, chief executive officer of DHI, an industry group for door security professionals. “At times they can overlook the simplicity of door locks.”

‘This is unforgivable’

Like many US school districts, Uvalde had dramatically increased its school security measures in recent years: the district hired a social media monitoring firm that brought in drug-sniffing dogs, and it A scanner was used to see if the visitors were registered sex offenders. security plan Posted on its website, more than doubling your security budget,

But the only mention of door locks in a publicly posted plan was the district’s requirement that teachers keep their classroom doors locked and locked “at all times”—describing the steps they might have to take to do so. without. The district did not respond to questions about the type of locks on its classroom doors or efforts to make the locks work.

After the shooting at Rob Elementary, there is now a new investigation into this issue. amid a series of missteps and errors that allowed Uvalde’s shooting to result in multiple deaths – including a . also includes delayed police response That let the siege go on for over an hour – the school’s doors turned out to be a major security flaw. Last month, Uvalde, who spoke to NBC News, was among those testifying during a closed-door meeting of a special Texas House committee investigating the teacher massacre.

Although she believes the government should make it more difficult to buy assault-style rifles, including raising the minimum age, she wanted to make sure lawmakers were aware of a more basic concern.

“Classroom doors should have no windows, and doors should be able to be closed from the inside and out,” she told the committee. “I shouldn’t go out and put myself in danger to verify that my door is locked.”

Anxiety has surfaced once again public testimony Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Security, who said the shooter had passed through a classroom door that was locked but didn’t seem secure — and could not be locked from inside.

“It’s ridiculous, and if you’re looking at it from a security standpoint it’s unforgivable,” he said during last month’s hearing. He also pointed to another lock safety issue that the district had not addressed: The strike plate—the metal fixture that allows the door to latch—was damaged in the first grade the shooter entered through an unsecured door. was. It was a problem that at least one teacher had previously flagged for the school, but which was not fixed, McCraw said.

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