Classroom Closer Lock Illegal

By Brian Rhodes, Published Oct 28, 2014, 12:00am EDT

Keeping classrooms locked against intruders is one the most urgent security priorities today. With terrible active shooting events in schools in the mind of many administrators, a teacher has developed 'The Sleeve [link no longer available]', a bracket that slides over a door's closer.

Many herald the devices as an example of ingenuity, and a valuable low-cost add that enhances school security. However, not only is the device unsafe, it violates many life/safety codes, and potentially cause a much bigger tragedy that it ever prevents.

In the note, we examine The Sleeve's problems, explain why it is a risk, and list safe alternatives.

Door Closer Lock

The Sleeve is a simple idea: a small metal bracket that slides over the parallel bars of a door closer, preventing it from opening.  Part of the appeal is the user need not expose themselves or the classroom's occupants to potential danger to lock the door.  Like so many keyed locks that first require the teacher to open the door and lock the door from the outside, The Sleeve locks the door without opening it first. 

The device has gotten widespread positive media coverage and several writeups, including:

Product Overview

The inventor's video below gives an overview of 'The Sleeve', and how it is sized for use:

The product's page emphasizes the device's utility in an active shooter situation [link no longer available], enabling the teacher to 'secure the door in seconds'.

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A simple device with no moving parts, 'The Sleeve' is priced for $65, and is even available as a 'Gift for a Teacher [link no longer available]' for concerned parents.

Door Closers Optional

Safety problems aside, 'The Sleeve' is only able to be used on doors that also include automatic closers. While closers do have an invaluable security role (See:Door Closers: Critical Security Hardware), its because they automatically shut a door when it is opened and not because they lock the door once closed.

Indeed, while almost every door has a lock, a small percentage are typically equipped with closers.  In many cases, high volume corridor openings, fire doors, or perimeter doors have closers but there is no requirement that classroom doors have them.  

A Terrible Idea

Beyond that, using this device is likely to be as much of a risk as an aid:

  • Unsafe: Nothing prevents The Sleeve from locking people in a room, trapping them as easily as it keeps threats out. A teacher may be unclear on the nature of the general emergency in a school: Are those alarms for fire, severe weather, or an active shooter? Given the 'other risks' an alarm could signal, using the device could directly contribute to locking people in a threatened or dangerous area.
  • Ineffective: Trying to defeat The Sleeve is likely difficult, but not impossible. Especially if an intruder is armed with a gun. In every case, the device relies on a properly installed an anchored closer to keep things shut, but does not address the risk of a closer being forced off a thin frame or broken from the door.

Likely Illegal

In many areas, using The Sleeve is against the law. Many local authorities have adopted codes that dictate emergency egress is a simple, instinctual action. The model code for most of these local regulations is International Building Code 1008.1.9 [link no longer available] that states:

"Except as specifically permitted by this section egress doors shall be readily openable from the egress side without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort."

Bottom line: any piece of security door hardware must also guarantee safety. 'The Sleeve' is risky for protecting lives as much as it is keeping them safe.

Better: Classroom Function Locks

Fortunately, there are many safer access control options that do not increase risk if misused. For example, an entire ANSI lock function for door locks designed to lock the door without exposing the inside to danger. Replacement locks with this function (See: Classroom Locks Reviewed for more detail) usually cost about $250. While 4X the cost of 'The Sleeve', they completely mitigate the risk of trapping people in a room.

Likewise, common 'Emergency Lockdown' features in electronic access platforms can be used to quickly secure any unlocked opening. Even standalone locks like the Sargent Lockdown Leverset come with the option for a teacher to use a remote keyfob to lock the opening without needing to be anywhere near the door. Costs for these solutions typically start at $1000 and go upward.

Locks Are Not Everything

Unfortunately, even the right lock choice cannot guarantee intruders are stopped cold. In the case of an active shooter, the intruder can simply shoot their way through many openings without adequate ballistic design. 

For many schools, the most prudent security approach begins at the outside perimeter. Ensuring that armed intruders are unable to enter is far more practically effective that hoping a locked door stops tragedy.

Take The Poll

So what do you think of 'The Sleeve'? Vote below:

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