Over the years, some DC board members have pointed out the need to repair faulty door locks at some DC schools.
WASHINGTON — Every few years, the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, under the Department of Homeland Security, releases its “K-12 School Safety Guide”.
The guide includes many recommendations that school systems should implement to keep their students and staff safe on their campuses.
Among other things, the agency recommends that schools use interior door locks in their classrooms to prevent intruders from entering classrooms.
Well, not every classroom in DC has this basic safety measure.
For years, DC Council members have pushed district leaders to make sure all classrooms have the locks they need to keep students safe.
In March 2018, just a month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a Ward 6 council member discussed the need to lock down a northeast DC school before a DC Council Education Committee Budget Oversight Hearing.
“It shouldn’t take this long to get locks that work on a school door and especially with the national conversation we’re having,” he said.
School Safety | Not all DC classrooms have working door locks. A DCPS teacher contacted a council member @charlesallen today to let him know that several classrooms in his NE school have broken locks. We are told that DGS is working to resolve the situation at this school as soon as possible. (@wusa9) pic.twitter.com/ae7r8pctbP
— John Henry (@JohnHenryWUSA) May 26, 2022
While four years later, in March 2022, Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George echoed a similar concern during a district General Service Department Committee performance monitoring hearing. [DGS].
“We have a number of schools in Ward 4 that have doors that don’t lock and that’s a major security issue,” she said.
On Wednesday, Allen received a tweet from a DC Public Schools teacher in northeast DC who claimed there were several classroom doors in her building that also wouldn’t close.
The DGS, which installs locks at DCPS facilities, has since visited the teacher’s school to assess any lock repairs needed there.
“I think it’s always confusing not being able to resolve work orders,” Allen said. “And I think when I have a teacher who contacts me first thing in the morning because he needs help, it’s disturbing. We have to make sure these things are done.
In a joint statement to WUSA9 regarding broken locks at some DCPS schools, DCPS and DGS said the safety and well-being of students and staff is their top priority.
“We continue to work closely with the DC Metropolitan Police Department and other city agencies on the safety of our school communities to create a safe and welcoming environment for all,” the statement read. “This includes a layered approach to safety and security with our highly trained, youth-specific School Safety Officers and MPD School Resource Officers. The physical security structures of a school building are regularly reviewed as part of our security assessments.”
The speed of school repairs in the district has been a topic of discussion at the Wilson Building in the past.
Prior to a meeting on the topic in September 2021, Allen requested data on every open DGS work order for DCPS Ward 6 schools that is older than 30 days.
The board member eventually learned that there were 472 work orders that were over a month old. WUSA9 reviewed this list and found that 35 of these requests were related to issues with doors and locks at 13 schools in the Allen neighborhood.
A work order cited safety concerns regarding a broken lock on the first floor of an elementary school in southeast DC.
“The hallway door does not lock at all in a lockout emergency, the door will not keep the first floor classroom out of harm’s way, ticket needs to be increased ASAP URGENT!!!!! Security issue!!!!!” the command reads.
It is not known how many classroom door locks are currently broken at DCPS schools.
However, in 2018, the public learned how expensive it can be to install and repair locks in schools.
“We did some research with DGS and identified that we have over 50 schools that don’t have the capacity to lock our doors,” said Michael Gaal, former DCPS vice chancellor for innovation and education. improving systems at a DC Council hearing. “We need about $15 million to meet this requirement.”
However, Allen notes that the issue of door locks in schools is only part of the larger discussion about how to keep students and educators safe in DC.
After Tuesday’s mass shooting that claimed the lives of 21 students and teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Allen said more needs to be done to get dangerous firearms off the streets.
“In light of yesterday’s events [shooting], I think it’s important to take a step back,” he said. “Making sure there’s a deadbolt on a classroom door is a workaround to the real solution and that’s guns like this should never be on our streets, guns assault, AR-15s.”