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There's No Silver Bullet For School Safety


Illinois school administrators hoping to protect staff and students against the threat of an active shooter could get a new addition to their toolkit — devices designed to quickly barricade classroom doors during an emergency situation.

But that tool would come with its own set of problems.

Matt Perez, the State Fire Marshal, today warned lawmakers that any lock handy enough to be grabbed in a crisis could also be used by, for example, the shooter, or even one student wanting to bully a classmate.

"He would have complete access to that person, unobstructed, until they could break through that barricade device, which could take a very long time," Perez said.

He told lawmakers some schools have probably already obtained such locks. Though intended to keep people safe, Perez says these devices could have unintended consequences, potentially trapping students inside a room with an attacker while making it more difficult for rescuers to get in.

"Since these devices are currently not allowed by the school code, they are being used covertly, which could result in first responders being faced with a daunting task of overcoming one of these barricade devices without prior knowledge of their existence or their operation,” he said.

The measure moving through the legislature would require schools to notify law enforcement and fire departments prior to using any barricade locks, and train school personnel in how to use the devices. The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate and now heads to the House.

After a long career in newspapers (Dallas Observer, The Dallas Morning News, Anchorage Daily News, Illinois Times), Dusty returned to school to get a master's degree in multimedia journalism. She began work as Education Desk reporter at NPR Illinois in September 2014.
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