Houston-area school districts and expert weigh in on safety regarding locked classroom door policies

Courtney Carpenter Image
Wednesday, June 1, 2022
How school safety and locking classroom doors can help save students
"We need to have legislative changes that help support the efforts that schools are trying to do to keep kids safe. It can't be placed all on schools," Keith Butcher said.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Last week in Uvalde, law enforcement initially said the gunman got inside Robb Elementary School after a teacher went to get her cell phone from her car and left a door propped open.

Texas DPS now says that is not what happened. They now say the teacher did close the door, but it did not lock.

This comes as a Washington Post report shared the account of a Robb Elementary student who says the shooter pulled on the doorknob to his classroom, but was not able to get in, illustrating the point about how locked doors can be the key to survival in active shooter situations.

Uvalde CISD does have a policy in place saying teachers are required to have their classroom doors closed and locked at all times.

"It could protect in those instances where there's a split second that we haven't been able to give the lockdown code yet, but then the classroom doors are already locked," explained Keith Butcher, a former teacher, principal and superintendent and current clinical assistant professor at the University of Houston.

Butcher explains the importance of schools having up to date safety plans and actually putting those plans into action.

"If there's one suggestion, one recommendation I have for educators is we have our policies in place and we just need to be on heightened awareness at all times to make sure follow those policies and procedures," said Butcher.

Butcher says schools need to do everything they can to improve safety, but says they will need help.

"We need to have societal changes. We need to have legislative changes that help support the efforts that schools are trying to do to keep kids safe. It can't be placed all on schools," said Butcher.

As for local districts' locked classroom door policies, both Fort Bend ISD and Conroe ISD say they have policies that require classroom doors to be locked during the school day.

Katy ISD did not answer our specific question about locked classroom doors and released the following statement:

The safety and well-being of all Katy ISD students and staff is of the utmost importance on every one of the District's campuses. Katy ISD implements all safety practices and guidelines recommended by the Texas School Safety Center. This includes mandatory safety drills and trainings, emergency operations plans for all campuses, as well as regular safety and security audits as required by the Texas Education Code.

Our area's largest district, HISD, referred us to their current guidelines, which were issued in 2009. It says classrooms with doors that open to the outside are supposed to be locked at all times. The policy does not specifically mention classroom doors to interior hallways.

HISD issued a statement late this afternoon saying the district does have a "regulation referencing secure classrooms" but did not elaborate on what that means.

The full statement is as follows from HISD Chief of Police Pedro Lopez:

The safety of our students and staff is our top priority. HISD Police and school administrators on campuses constantly survey the campuses throughout the day to ensure that doors leading in and out of the building are securely locked and are not propped open. HISD does have a regulation referencing secure classrooms. Lockdown drills are conducted annually to practice established procedures in the event of lockdown which includes locking the classroom door.

Cy-Fair ISD and Crosby ISD did not respond to our requests on Tuesday.

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