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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14 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?

  7. FireSafetyFocus says:

    There are plenty of legal door hardware solutions that don’t violate building and fire codes. Often these locks are already installed or require a minor retrofit, but are disregarded. It’s not about pitting security proponents against building/fire officials. It’s about joining together to identify compliant security measures. Building/fire officials and door hardware manufacturers with expertise in egress related codes must be consulted so the fundamental concept of building safety – the ability to rapidly exit in response to any emergency – is not suppressed.

  8. David Graham says:

    Please explain how school staff and emergency responders are able to unlock the Barricade Box from outside the classroom, as being able to do so appears to be a requirement of the 2018 International Building Code and the 2018 International Fire Code.

  9. Jack Decker says:

    The number of people being shot in America every year ALWAYS dwarfs the number injured in fires. Robberies, home invasions, assassinations, car jackings, gang violence, terrorism. Just because many of the shootings do not fit as an active / mass shooter does not discount the carnage.

    Current protocols including ALICE train students and staff to create an “improvised barricade” by stacking file cabinets and furniture in front of the classroom doors. Think about it. These improvised barricades are less effective and create more of a challenge for occupants attempting to exit then a professionally researched and constructed device.

  10. Chief Donald E. White says:

    During recent training presentations by Virginia state deputy fire marshals, they announced that as of that time, no door barricade devices were permissible in the Commonwealth of Virginia. When it was then mentioned that Campus Safety magazine featured advertisements by door barricade vendors, that was found to be sending contradictory messages. Campus Safety Editor Robin Hattersley recently announced that Campus Safety was taking a stand against door barricade devices. Chief Donald E. White, Former Director of Safety and Security, Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, Falls Church, VA.

  11. Robert says:

    I am perplexed at the resistance to implementation of door barricades in schools; particularly inside classrooms. I understand the concern of having such barricades at perimeter doors or maybe even internal hallway doors as this could impede the ability of students and faculty to escape from a building where an active shooter is taking place. But consider the classroom example. The people in the room make a choice to barricade, either because escape is not safely possible (or they perceive it’s not safely possible). They barricade the door to deny entry to the attacker. They are either going to do this with an installed device designed to work as a barricade, or they will sloppily push desks, furniture or what ever else is at their disposal to block the door. Both solutions violate fire and safety codes. But what is the greater risk at that point? The shooter or the chance of some random fire? Seems like there is a middle ground solution.

  12. […] “Keeping children safe is the goal of both sides, but opponents of the new security methods being proposed say they violate a number of building codes as well as Federal Accessibility Laws.” – Campus Safety, Classroom Barricade Devices: A Dangerous Violation of Federal Laws […]

  13. Jack Taylor says:

    Correct, some alternative solutions are dangerous BUT Some barricade devices are approved for school use. The NFPA has recently approved an emergency ammendment to allow secondary locking mechanisms like Temporary Door Barricade Devices to be applied during Lockdown events. This ammendment officially revises the adopted 2018 NFPA 101. NFPA wants schools and other budget restricted facilities to have an affordable alternative solution, when expensive conventional locksets are too expensive for school budgets. This year, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia have recently joined 14 other states to make Temporary door barricade devices officially acceptable with safety code variances and exemptions if the device satisfies state rule requirements. Most states site the Night lock Lock down barricade device as a preferred device with the required design elements to satisfy state legislative rules. Thousands of schools through-out the USA have installed these devices. Some barricade devices do satisfy all concerns regarding ADA, building & fire code, when applying official exemptions and variances in these codes and some do not. Please review your options, and make a safe decision.

  14. How do you get a product approved. I believe my product meets the disability code requirements.

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