The local school administrator in charge during a high school shooting that left three students dead says door-security barricades give him “anxiety.”
Former Chardon School District Superintendent Joe Bergant told members of the Ohio Board of Buildings Standards (BBS) Friday that barricades have the potential to backfire and make active shooter situations more dangerous.
“There was a situation in Colorado … where a gentleman came into the school, went up the hallway, went into a classroom, and he barricaded himself in that particular room and ended up killing one child,” he said. “The police had a difficult time getting into that room because the door opened in the opposite way, and they actually had to blow the door off with some kind of explosive.”
BBS was continuing its examination of the Ohio Building Code as it relates to educational buildings during a public hearing in Reynoldsburg on June 5. Approximately 20 people testified, including parents, firefighters, public safety officials, building officials and security industry representatives. Former Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) Director Andre Porter, now chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), asked the board to examine the code shortly after a local school district was prohibited from using barricades it had purchased because they didn’t comply with Ohio code. The BBS Code Committee is scheduled to present its recommendations to the full board at its next meeting, Friday, July 24, according to DOC Public Information Officer Matt Mullins.
Bergant, currently superintendent of Cuyahoga Heights Schools, said barricades could be dangerous if a bomb started a fire in the school or if a teacher left a room unattended with a barricade available.
“In a lot of situations, people need to get out of the building in some capacity,” he said. “There have been situations where kids have locked other kids in classrooms. I have huge anxiety with that. If the teacher is not in the room, what do you do? Somebody could barricade themselves in a room and kill everybody.”
Bergant said keeping school doors locked at all times and engaging in regular, appropriate training and drills for how to respond to emergency situations is most effective in preparing for active shooters. He also said he does not think “gadgets and gimmicks” like metal detectors and door buzzers are effective in stopping school shooters.
“It’s an emotional blanket for people because, you do have to stop, you do have to buzz in. If you don’t have the proper training for a secretary — most secretaries … just buzz people in even if they don’t know who it is. It could be anybody,” he said. “You cannot stop somebody from coming into a school to shoot you. There is no way to do it.”
Bergant noted several times during the presentation that Chardon shooter T.J. Lane shot several students and left the building in 22 seconds.
A number of firefighters testified, saying barricades could make schools more dangerous during fires. Many noted that children are much more likely to face a fire than an active shooter. Lindsay Burnworth, DOC public information officer, said in an email that State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers “believes that the code has been effective in protecting Ohioans, but will defer the decision regarding school barricade devices” to BBS.
Erin West, a mother of a seven-year-old who had helped raise money for barricades in her school district, also testified. Her remarks were similar to proponent testimony she provided for HB114 (Roegner-Bishoff), which would allow school districts to use barricades in emergencies and prohibit the fire code from prohibiting the devices. That bill has been reported out of the House State Government Committee.
The Senate’s version, SB125 (LaRose-Hottinger), has yet to receiving a hearing in the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Labor Committee.