locking down a classroom increasing demands

Locking Down a Classroom Increasing Demands

Increasing demands call for immediate sense of security

locking down a classroom increasing demandsAccording to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, during the 2009-10 school year alone, 85 percent of public schools in the United States reported that one or more incidents had taken place on campus, amounting to an estimated 1.9 million crimes. This translated to a rate of 40 crimes per 1,000 students enrolled in a public school.

In response to the increasing number of gun-related incidents and violent crimes occurring in schools nationwide, school districts are looking for more efficient security and access-control measures. To combat these dangers and protect students and faculty, a comprehensive element of security solutions are available, ranging from biometrics identity management systems and emergency notification devices to monitoring technologies and full perimeter access control options, all aiming to eliminate the threat of and prevent violent intruders from setting foot on campuses.

However, as students, parents and staff make increasing demands for a more immediate sense of security and peace of mind, solutions often appear costly to administrators and security directors as well as difficult to implement in a timely and effective manner.

The Intruder Function

Many school district administrators and superintendents have started opting for a highly cost-effective product that has been on the market for approximately 20 years to better secure classrooms during the threat of intruder and emergency situations. Used to equip classroom doors, the feature is commonly referred to as an “intruder function,” though many manufacturers have their own respective nomenclature.

The intruder function eliminates a major point of classroom vulnerability by enabling teachers to discretely lock the exterior lever, or thumb piece, from the inside, should they hear or be warned of a disturbance directly outside the classroom or in the hallway. Essentially, teachers and staff are able to lock the exterior of the door without opening it, while the interior lever, or exit device, can remain unlocked, providing safe egress if needed. In doing so, the teacher draws little attention to the students in the room while simultaneously increasing the level of classroom security.

The intruder function offers substantial security at a low cost with minimal installation time, allowing schools to take preventative actions against violent situations quickly and effectively. This single component offers the following to provide an effective response to breached security crises in education facilities:

  • easy to operate, requiring minimal effort;
  • adds to classroom security, with minimal change to the existing door hardware installation;
  • available as an orderable option to common exit devices as well as cylindrical and mortise lock platforms;
  • offered in a wide variety of finishes to accommodate the respective application environments; and
  • can be keyed to fit the specific lock or match existing door openings throughout the facility.

Because of these characteristics, the procurement rate has been on the rise in many school districts as this function is being applied to classrooms, libraries, study halls and common areas of student learning in schools across the country. For instance, after the notorious shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in April 1999, manufacturers saw a significant rise in districts purchasing this option in Colorado school districts.

Many educational facilities throughout the United States feel that the minimal upcharge and installation effort is a small price to pay when considering the immeasurable value of the added security provided. To that point, many communities have now made the intruder function a requirement for their respective classroom applications.

Pittsburgh Public Schools

Most recently, in what is considered one of the most significant moves to improve school security in Western Pennsylvania, the board of Pittsburgh Public Schools voted unanimously in late April of this year to approve the purchase and installation of 4,400 Best locks with the intruder function from Stanley Security in all 59 schools and early learning centers within the district. This decision was part of the school district’s response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. that claimed the lives of 26 students and adult staff members on Dec. 14, 2012.

“I applaud any school board that is willing to take additional steps to provide for the safety of their students,” said Donald Smith Jr., emergency planning and response management coordinator at the Center for Safe Schools in Camp Hill, Pa. “As much emphasis as we place on students succeeding academically, that success is only possible when students are learning in a safe and secure environment.”

Virginia Schools

A rural, K-12 public school district, located approximately 35 miles northwest of Richmond, Va., chose to install Best locks with the intruder function by Stanley Security in keeping with its continuous efforts to enhance and upgrade security on all of its campuses.

The district currently consists of six schools, including one high school, one middle school and four elementary schools, with students enrolled in pre-K through 12th grade programs. The district also has an alternative education center for students at both the middle and high school levels, and the high school is equipped with an extensive career and technical education department with access to a Governor’s School.

The school district, which views the safety of its students and faculty as a top priority, has ramped up security efforts over the years in order to secure all entryways, school common areas, hallways and classrooms in the best, most cost-effective ways possible.

“When planning for security enhancements in any educational setting, it’s important to always take into account currently-installed security, budgets, time frames, down-the-road compatibility and future security goals set by school leadership,” said John Johnson, end user consultant for Stanley Security. “First and foremost, though, is landing on a single function, such as locks with the intruder function or a comprehensive solutions package that will immediately augment student and staff safety.”

Stanley Security introduced and installed the locks with the intruder function in this Virginia public school district in 2010. Since then, this school district continues to implement this solution as well as other security features in all new buildings, upgrades and projects.

Northside Independent School District - Texas

The Northside Independent School District (NISD) in San Antonio, Tex., a premier school system comprised of 71 elementary schools, 18 middle schools and 15 high schools, adopted the Best locks in 2002, installing approximately 15,000 to 20,000 locks in their new facilities. Since then, the district has converted their locks to include the intruder function to better protect their population of approximately 100,000 students along with 12,500 faculty and staff.

“The decision to install locks with the intruder function in the NISD school environments was made by our Facilities Department more than 10 years ago, in response to all the shootings that were being reported around the country at that time,” said Vince Flores, building trades manager of maintenance and operations at NISD. “And, years later, we believe we made the right decision to include them in all our new facilities in order to ensure the safety of our students and faculty. The intruder function has been a great addition and investment to our district with about a 99 percent success rate. Our goal in the future is to convert all NISD campuses to the intruder lock function and intruder exit devices.”

Creating a Secure School

This nation is challenged daily with media broadcasting the violence that has encroached upon the safety and lives of our children, teachers and supporting faculty. In the face of such realities, as the ones that have occurred at elementary, secondary and higher education facilities across the country, including those incidents that have lent to the unfortunate infamy of Columbine High School, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary School, every additional security measure that can be taken to better guard classroom environments from unauthorized persons and intruders is a must. The intruder function proves its value as a trusted, significant, access-control feature that cost-effectively protects with little disruption to existing door hardware.

“Security measures and practices are designed to slow down an intruder...[ and] every moment that you can delay an intruder to allow time for law enforcement to arrive can save countless lives,” said Brett Bontrager, senior vice president and group executive at Stanley, during a hearing earlier this year before the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the U.S. Workforce. “Certainly, no single lock or system is the answer. Each school district should ensure that its school buildings and grounds undergo a site evaluation, a risk assessment and [that] a long-term, comprehensive, security roadmap is developed.”

“Upon completion of the site evaluation and risk assessment, decisions must then be made on the level of security needed. By levels of security, I am referring to security products that range from essential hardware and mechanical access equipment, such as door hardware— which includes intruder locks and master key systems—to wireless situational awareness monitoring and every solution in between. Each district can work within their own specific needs, considering their budget as well as the local rules and regulations.”

For security directors, facility managers, school board members and parents in any school community knowing that such a simple, effective and practical solution exists and can be installed easily in the classroom with minimal door preparation and restructuring offers incredible comfort.

“I know we can all agree that keeping our children safe in their schools is worth all of our time, all of our collective experience and all of our wisdom,” Bontrager said.

Although installing the intruder lock function in schools may not be the only step to ensure safe learning environments, it’s a considerable and simple action that can pre-empt an emergency and potentially save lives.

This element of classroom security equipment truly sells itself; the feature is a long-standing, trusted solution that directly addresses the fears and concerns every parent has when dropping his or her child off at the school’s front doors. Installing locks with an intruder function in learning facilities is an essential, proactive measure to help prevent tragedy.

This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Security Today.

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