COLUMBUS (AP/WCMH) — The Ohio building standards board on Friday gave final approval to rules allowing schools to deploy barricade devices in the event of an active shooter, but a disability rights group said they are not consistent with federal law ensuring equal access.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that locks be usable by people with disabilities and doesn’t hold an exception for the devices, according to the Ohio Disability Rights Law and Policy Center. That inconsistency may prevent some school employees from being able to use the devices and “has the potential to create an environment where they are discriminated against because of their inability to operate this device,” said Michael Kirkman, the center’s executive director. “For a classroom teacher or an aide who has a disability and is not able to work the gate, the school district is going to have to come up with some way to accommodate that person’s disability.”
The new rules overseeing the barricade devices take effect in 10 days.
Parents, school districts and device manufacturers lobbied lawmakers to allow the devices after school shootings, including the 2012 killing of three students in Chardon, in northeastern Ohio. Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio are among states that have updated their fire or building codes to allow the devices. Some devices used in Ohio and elsewhere slide under doors and could require that holes be drilled into the floor for security pins. Others attach to door handles.
The federal disability law is outside the board’s authority, said Steve Regoli, the board’s architect project administrator. As a result, it’s up to schools as employers to explore options to comply with the disabilities law, he said. “If there is an employment issue then they’ve got to deal with making some accommodation on how they could use that device,” Regoli said. That could include an alternate device or some other assistance to use it, he said.
Skeptics say the devices are complicated to install under stress and could lead to dangerous unintended consequences, including blocking authorities from an attacker inside a classroom.
The Ohio board previously opposed the devices, calling them “unlisted, unlabeled and untested” in a report last year. But lawmakers approved them, forcing the board to adopt new rules.
Some schools went ahead and purchased devices with approval from local fire marshals. Others stopped the process, worried the device they wanted would run afoul of the new standards.
In the Southwest Licking School Districts, several hundred barricade devices have been sitting in closets for more than a year. Parents raised the money to buy enough barricades for every classroom door in the district but then local building officials said the barricades violate state building codes. Watkins Memorial High School Principal Ben Richards says he expects they will soon be able to unpack the barricades and distribute them to classrooms. “Hopefully we will never have to use these devices,” Richards said. “This is just an additional level of security to be able to have in case of anything truly happening of that nature and we hope to never have to use them.”
Richards said local building authorities will now have to verify that the barricades are legal under the new state rules.
In Toledo, Emmanuel Christian School was within two weeks of installing its selected device last year when it canceled the order because of concerns about the upcoming codes. The K-12 school of 375 students still hopes to purchase devices once it reviews the new standards. Interim school administrator Ron Farrington says the building is already secure but the devices would add peace of mind. “It’s just one more step to help us be just that much more proactive in this area,” Farrington said.