The Tennessee State Fire Marshall's Office is issuing new classroom lock-down guidelines following in the wake of the deadly school shootings in Texas and Florida. The most glaring change is specifically, its guidance on doors in classrooms - done in an effort to provide an extra layer of school safety.
In a news release, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance said; "During annual inspections of classrooms, inspectors will no longer issue citations for barricade devices so long as the devices are not attached to a door nor deployed during an inspection. If a device is used for purposes other than security drills or lock-downs, this will be noted as a deficiency."
The debate began four years ago when four Washington County (TN) schools flat-out violated State Code as part of a bold effort to protect students from an active shooter or similar threats. Various fire inspection photos clearly showed the classrooms to be in violation of the state fire code after teachers and administrators changed doors in the name of active shooter safety.
This makeshift "barricade" device, made from simple hardware store clips were used at Grandview Elementary School by teachers who, by their own words; "have had enough" with inaction regarding classroom lock down procedures.
After a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2013, the Washington County Sheriff's Office and school district partnered with an outside consultant to improve school safety. Assistant Director of Schools Dr. Bill Flanary said at the consultant's urging, some teachers and administrators made changes.
Reasons for the Fire Marshall issuing citations and having the devices removed had little or nothing to do with lock-down procedures, but after pressure from parents, teachers, students and the community, the State Fire Marshall's Office finally relented and has changed the codes.
None of these devices, either market or non-market are deployed in the even of a fire and that's what was so frustrating to teachers and students who realized something must be done to create more time in an active shooter threat, so help can arrive. Brave teachers, who care about their classroom children more than their own job, argued that when bullets are flying in the hallways, students will barricade the doors, regardless of codes.
The Fire Marshall's Office initially offered this explanation: "While they acted with the best intentions, the changes likely rendered the doors meant to stop the spread of fire and smoke useless and potentially made it nearly impossible for kids to escape in the event of a fire."
It took years before actual change occurred - even in light of the knowledge that fireman do not and cannot enter a building during an active shooter event.
A door barricade used in 2014 in Boone High School. It was ordered to be removed from the door and the school
“Tennessee school administrators and educators now have additional measures to help protect students in the event of an emergency,” said Gary Farley, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance assistant commissioner. “Classroom safety remains a priority of Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak and our team, and we encourage our partners to create comprehensive safety plans that fit the needs of individual schools.”
SwiftShield Corporation Representative Samuel Wurzelbacher, a spokesman for the company, said the change was a positive step, but something this critical cannot and should not take years to effect: "Let’s be honest – it’s no longer “if” – it’s now “when” the next tragedy strikes and although it seems hard to believe – 19 years after Columbine – there have been 154 mass shootings in the US so far in 2018, including 23 school shootings alone – resulting in at least 41 deaths and over 70 wounded.
Heretofore, there are only 7 states which allow (and encourage) classroom lockdown systems, with three more States on the fence (as follows).
States that Allow Barricade Devices:
States Up in the Air on Allowing Barricade Devices:
Wurzelbacher continued, explaining in some detail about his company's efforts - and bureaucratic battles with those in authority - regarding saving kid's lives and ensuring peace of mind for parents: "‘SwiftShield;’ the company I’m deeply involved in securing our children’s schools - is in the process of partnering with corporate sponsors and others to outfit schools and districts with their line of devices which easily and effectively lock-down classrooms in the event of active-shooter attacks.
The S.O.S - “Shield Our Schools” campaign is taking off and with almost zero promotion, has made in-roads into the challenges we face. The initiative is unique in that it involves no cost whatsoever to schools or school districts and relies 100% on corporate funding, donations and like-minded businesses wanting to get involved to save the lives of students, teachers and staff in the event of another horrific school shooting."
He also stressed the need for everyone to be aware of the ongoing fight to undo the stranglehold schools are under from the entrenched establishment, who fight every step of the way with regulations, codes, mental health know-how, new rules of engagement, gun control legislation, school violence awareness programs, protests and politicians pointing the finger at each other.
"Everything has changed it seems except one thing: The senseless and preventable murder of children while they’re out of their parent’s supervision."
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