Opinion: Unlocked and Unprepared – How Locked Classroom Doors Can Save Lives
This opinion piece was written shortly before a deadly school shooting in Nashville happened where seven people were killed, including the shooter. Three children and three adult employees of The Covenant School were fatally shot by a 28-year-old woman.
Brooklyn, NY — NOTE: This opinion piece was written shortly before a deadly school shooting in Nashville happened where seven people were killed, including the shooter. Three children and three adult employees of The Covenant School were fatally shot by a 28-year-old woman.
“Attention. We are conducting a lockdown.”
“Everybody, under your desks,” my teacher whispers.
I’ve never actually been asked to hide underneath my desk. This is real. Maybe I’m just overthinking. My teacher tries to lock the door. It won’t lock. He sits on the ground against the wall. We’re just sitting.
I whisper to the girl next to me. “It’s not usually this serious.”
She nods. “I know.”
I hear footsteps down the hall. The door whips open. Brown boots stomp into the room. I’m under the desk. I can’t see his face. This is it. This finally happened to me. But someone laughs. It's the security guard, checking if the door was locked. It’s just a drill. It’s alright.
But it's not.
The door didn’t lock.
The protection of a locked door is oftentimes overlooked. As of 2022, not a single school shooter has been able to breach a locked classroom door. Shooters have entered schools through left open entryways or doors without functioning locks. But currently, according to NBC News “no state requires all schools to install interior locks,” though it is recommended.
According to a New York Times article, shooters are more likely to walk past a door that is locked. They’re looking for maximum casualties. To an active shooter, trying to open a locked door is a waste of time.
We are taught to barricade doors, stay silent, and keep out of sight of windows but, the purpose is defeated if the classroom door can be easily opened. According to AP News “At Sandy Hook Elementary School, the doors of the two classrooms where all 20 children were killed in the 2012 massacre could only be locked from the hallway with a key.” To lock the door, the teacher would have had to walk into the hallway, presenting themselves as an easy target. Similarly, according to Security Magazine, during the shooting in Uvalde, Texas the gunman was only able to enter the classroom where 19 children were killed because the door’s lock was broken.
While many schools understand the importance of functioning locks on classroom doors, the main problem is funding. Schools just don’t have the money to entertain projects like redoing and replacing all the doors and locks. However, the benefits of a locked door outweigh the potential consequences of not taking action. In the past 10 years, there have been 1,054 school shootings in the United States. In 2013, there were 51, while in 2022 alone, this number skyrocketed to almost 177.
We are facing an epidemic that has to end. Student safety is the top priority. We need to guarantee locks on every classroom door. This starts by mandating locks and allocating government funds specifically for this purpose. I don’t want to feel vulnerable at school anymore. No one should.
Locks will save lives.