The most visible tool we have to protect our schools are doors. They are everywhere – on the outside of our buildings at various external entrances, and all throughout a school building. While doors may have originally served as a way to allow people to come and go, or help cut down on distractions outside the classroom, doors now play a key role in helping to keep our schools safe and secure.

However, as we travel the country, working with school communities on safety strategies, we see this visible and symbolic tool frequently misused. Yes, doors are important in securing our buildings and classrooms, but too often, we see schools use locking devices and add-ons that actually put students and teachers at risk, rather than protecting them. Here are the most critical considerations everyone should be aware of:

  • First, door locks need to be compliant with building codes, fire codes, and the Americans with Disabilities Act to make sure we’re safe from a variety of threats. Many locks we see do not meet these basic safety requirements.
  • Second, we need door locks to be easy to use for everybody, regardless of age, developmental level, ability, or disability. This means having locks at the right height and easy to operate with one smooth motion. To put it simply, if people have to practice or be trained to secure the door, it’s just not simple enough. History has taught us that people trying to evacuate quickly, especially in groups, can panic and quickly become trapped.
  • Third, the door has to be lockable from inside, without students or teachers needing to open the door to lock it. No one should have to open the door to secure it when there is a possible threat on the other side.
  • Lastly – and this is especially difficult for many of us looking for inexpensive, quick door security solutions – it is important to resist the temptation to install door barricade devices in public places, like our schools. While the intention of these additional devices is to give an add a layer of security, they have the potential to enable bullying, harassment, or much worse when added to public spaces.

When secured properly, doors can be an effective barrier against a safety threat outside the school or classroom AND still allow individuals and groups of people to exit safely should their situation change like in a lockdown turned emergency evacuation.

I urge you – for the sake of our students and educators – to become informed about the right way to lock doors. One of Safe and Sound Schools’ partners, the Door Safety and Security Foundation, has been leading the charge on this issue. We are proud to partner with them to make sure schools understand how and why to properly lock school doors.

In fact, with their generous support, we produced a short educational video you can share with your school community. Help us open a conversation about this important issue in school safety today. Check out the Door Security and Safety Foundation, and their “Lock Don’t Block” program by visiting www.lockdontblock.org.