Classroom Barricade Devices: A Dangerous Violation of Federal Laws

Most classroom barricade devices violate ADA, NFPA and other federal codes that are designed to enable individuals with disabilities to quickly evacuate a dangerous situation.

Classroom Barricade Devices: A Dangerous Violation of Federal Laws

Photo Courtesy: Logan Piburn, Dyron Murphy Architects

Some State Codes Violate Federal Law

Although the building and fire code community has clearly ruled that these barricade devices do not meet the necessary egress and fire safety requirements, their seemingly blatant violations of federal laws have yet to be litigated. The ADA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and sets standards for accessible access and egress. Classroom doors nationwide are required to comply with the ADA, and it is unclear how several states have adopted codes to permit use of devices that are so obviously in conflict with a federal law.

“When discussing school classroom security and safety, the topic of accessibility for students with disabilities unfortunately usually merits only a second thought,” says Jerry Heppes Sr., CAE, chief executive officer of the Door Security and Safety Foundation. “Additionally, ADA standards for accessible design are often only thought of as providing access for persons with disabilities. But the reality is, especially when it comes to classroom security, it is equally important to provide safe egress for those with disabilities from the classroom. Any classroom door security device must, by federal law, provide that safe egress as defined by the operational requirements of the ADA standard.”

In addition to the ADA requirements, Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, mandates that people with disabilities have equal access to programs, services, activities and facilities that receive Federal financial assistance, such as schools. It states: “Each facility or part of a facility which is altered by, on behalf of, or for the use of a recipient after the effective date of this part in a manner that affects or could affect the usability of the facility or part of the facility shall, to the maximum extent feasible, be altered in such manner that the altered portion of the facility is readily accessible to and usable by handicapped persons.”

The installation of a barricade device on a classroom door is clearly discriminatory to those with physical or visual impairments, it impedes egress, is not located 34 to 48 inches above the floor, requires more than one action to release the door and as a result is in clear violation of standards and laws regarding accessibility.

Not Being Code Compliant Can Be Costly

“As the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission stated in their final report, there is not one documented incident of an active shooter breaching a locked [interior] door,” explains Williams. “In other words, we have code compliant solutions that work and provide both security and life safety for all building occupants.”

Whether school administrators choose to adjust security protocols incorporating existing locks, install classroom security locks or invest in electrified locks that can be secured remotely, code-compliant solutions are available. Not only will schools not save money by installing inexpensive barricade devices, they expose themselves to a number of new liabilities as well as potential fines for ADA violations.

“If you can’t get people out of a building, how is that safer?” asks Decker. “These devices can have that unintended consequence. We believe that all of these barricade devices fail to take into account the impact they could have on people with disabilities.”

The recent changes made to the model codes should help establish more consistent requirements for classroom security. However, when working to increase the security of an educational facility or any type of building, it’s vital to ensure safe access and egress for all occupants during any type of emergency — not just active shooters and terrorism, but also fire, severe weather, natural disasters and other types of emergencies that schools are statistically far more likely to face.

States must adopt standards for securing school facilities that meet all relevant laws and codes. Those standards must create secure environments while ensuring the safety of all occupants — and they should do so without turning our schools into prisons. Contrary to what the purveyors of barricades may claim, those standards can be easily implemented, affordably, using legal and code-compliant hardware.

It is irresponsible to make it difficult for anyone, regardless of their ability, to flee a hazardous situation. It is equally irresponsible to allow the use of locking devices that could be deployed as barricades by someone seeking to do harm to others. Schools house our most vulnerable population, our children, and their safety should not be jeopardized by misguided efforts to enhance security.

Robert Boyd is the executive director of the Secure Schools Alliance. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of and should not be attributed to Campus Safety magazine.

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6 responses to “Classroom Barricade Devices: A Dangerous Violation of Federal Laws”

  1. John says:

    The Barricade Box from Lockdown International addresses all the above practical and legal concerns. Check it out!

  2. Gretchen Knoblock says:

    It’s sad that the Michigan State Fire Marshall completely disregarded the NFPA 80 fire safety codes he was hired to enforce. Follow the Federal school security grant money if you want to know who benefits from these blatant code violations. It’s certainly not in the best interest or safety of the occupants of the school buildings to buy these barricades.

  3. Dennis Merrigan says:

    It is totally irresponsible to not allow school classrooms to be secured in the event of an active shooter situation which is much different than a weather or fire emergency.

  4. Gary says:

    In the event of an actual active shooter situation I train schools to harden the doors and barricade the room. I train them to use belts, electrical cords, etc. to secure the door and then to pile furniture against the door as a barricade. We then turn the desks over, turn out lights, pull down shades and cover door windows to darken the room. Yes, all of the aforementioned are barriers to egress by ALL those inside the room but for the short term, until first responders are on scene and in control, they are designed to prevent a killer from entering the room.

    These procedures are limited to actual, exigent circumstances.

  5. […] There has been a lot of discussion about whether classroom barricade devices are “legal,” whether they are a violation of the ADA, and whether their use increases liability for schools that use them.  For legal advice on these questions, I asked Allegion’s outside counsel.  He provided me with a document specific to accessibility and updated our document on liability – both are available below.  In addition, I recommend reading this article written by Robert Boyd of the Secure Schools Alliance: Classroom Barricade Devices – A Dangerous Violation of Federal Law. […]

  6. Shauna says:

    Are any door securing devices code compliant at this time?

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