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.
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 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.