School Security Expert Tip – Is it Practical and Safer to Teach with the Door Locked?

The most common questions our school security experts get during school security expert assessments involve lockdowns.  When we keynote on school security, the majority of the questions we get also involve lockdown procedures.  This makes it clear that educators are deeply concerned about this issue.  One increasingly popular approach in K12 schools is for teachers to make it a practice to teach with the door locked.  This practice has already proven to be effective with at least one incident in a Louisiana school where a middle school student killed himself in a school restroom after he was unable to kill two teachers because they were both teaching with their doors locked.   While this is one example of the benefits of teaching with the door locked, there are other reasons that show that this school security practice should be considered.

One principal in Bibb County, Georgia instituted the practice of requiring all teachers to teach with their doors locked in the early 1990’s as one means to reduce classroom disruptions and tardy students.  By requiring teachers to lock their classroom doors as soon as the late bell rang and students who had not made to class on time to come to the office, hundreds of tardy students interrupting classes were reduced per day.  When students had to come to the office and to have an administrator escort and admit them to their classes, students quickly learned to make it to class on time.  This increased time on task, improved school security, and improved the learning environment. 

This approach has also been implemented in schools that are aware that there have been many instances where an aggressor has managed to breach school security and then enter a classroom to attack students and/or staff.  From students who have been attacked by another child’s parent in retaliation for alleged bullying activity to more severe situations where teachers have been killed by an ex-spouse in front of their students, serious assaults have occurred in a number of public and non-public schools.  While most of these incidents do not garner intensive national media coverage, they have a tremendous negative impact for those who experience them.

Understandably, some administrators feel that having to use a key to enter a classroom for observations is more disruptive, I suggest that a principal entering the room will distract students and interrupt learning regardless of whether a key is used or not.  A number of educators who have adopted this practice report reduced rather than increased classroom distraction because teachers become more selective in issuing hall passes to students.  Keeping in mind that distraction occurs every time anyone enters or leaves a classroom, the approach may be less disruptive than many people assume if it is implemented thoughtfully.

About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.