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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 20 December, 2014

Classroom door locks and communication devices vital for school security

Panel looking at how schools can increase their security following Newtown massacre says simple steps are the most effective.

Roses printed with the faces of victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre near the school earlier this year.
Roses printed with the faces of victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre near the school earlier this year.
Image: AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File

A PANEL REVIEWING  school security standards in Connecticut following the Newtown massacre was urged to keep their solutions simple and focus on adding door locks for classrooms and communication devices.

“Every teacher must be armed with the most basic defence,” Ron Chivinski, a Newtown Middle School teacher and union leader told members of the School Safety Infrastructure Council at a meeting this week.

He suggested that classroom doors be retrofitted with locks that can be used from both the inside and outside, allowing teachers to lock down a classroom without opening the door to a hallway where an intruder may be present.

Jeff Leake, vice president of the Connecticut Education Association, said teachers in his union have said it’s important for them to know what’s going on inside their school. They think there should be a good way to inform teachers of an intruder without alarming students. Leake said some schools use special lighting as a notification system.

The hearing at New Britain High School marked the council’s fourth meeting. It was the first one held to gather input from the people who spend much of their time inside schools.

Retrofit schools

Panel chairman Donald DeFronzo, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, said the safety and security standards the group ultimately recommends will be applied to new school construction as well as renovations and retrofits of existing buildings.

DeFronzo said the recommendations ultimately will be costly and the council wants to make sure that any standards it recommends or requires will be effective. Connecticut has about 1,300 public schools, and the state currently spends about $500 million to $600 million (€375m-€450m) a year on school construction and renovation, which amounts to about 30 projects.

Even the new door locks suggested by Chivinski and others could be an expensive proposition. Richard Camelich Jr., superintendent of Regional School District 7, said:

We’re not talking about going down to Home Depot and buying a $25 (door lock).

He said they could cost hundreds of dollars per door.

The council has until 1 January to recommend to several state agencies and legislative committees new standards to improve or enhance security and safety in Connecticut schools. The council was created by legislation passed after the 14 December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 first-graders and six educators were killed.

Ballistic glass

Members are examining a variety of safety measures, including the feasibility of reinforcing entryways and using ballistic glass, solid core doors, computer-controlled electronic locks and buzzer systems. The group also is looking into using security cameras on school grounds.

In past reviews of school safety, experts have told lawmakers there was nothing that could have fully prevented Newtown shooter Adam Lanza from blasting his way into the school. But they’ve stressed the importance of trying to slow down an intruder.

Lanza killed his mother at their Newtown home before carrying out the shootings at the school, where he killed himself as police arrived.

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