The classrooms in Uvalde, Tx., schools lacked a basic security feature — and it’s missing across most of the nation. The classroom doors at Robb Elementary could not be locked from the inside. That's a vulnerability school safety experts have been warning about for decades, NBC reports.
Despite billions of dollars that have been poured into hardening schools nationally, 1 in 4 U.S. public schools lack classroom doors that can be locked from the inside, according to a survey conducted two years ago by the federal National Center on Education Statistics.
The safety feature is missing in much of Texas: thirty six percent of the state’s schools said they did not have interior-locking doors in the majority of their classrooms, according to a 2018 survey commissioned by Gov. Greg Abbott. Outdated locks are especially common in older school buildings that haven’t been renovated.
Built in the 1960s, Robb Elementary had classroom doors that could only be locked and unlocked from the outside, according to state authorities and a teacher. The teacher and her colleagues had been instructed to keep their classroom doors closed and locked at all times, using keys that they were required to carry with them, she said.
That system created frequent opportunities for mistakes: Each time she and her class returned from lunch or from the bathroom, she said, she had to use her key to unlock the door handle — and hope that she remembered to relock it again before going back inside. Once she was inside, the teacher said, there was no way to confirm whether the exterior handle was locked.
“Instead of giving the money to all these security companies, why not use it to change the locks on the doors?” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the leading labor union for educators. The group co-authored a 2020 school safety plan with Everytown for Gun Safety’s research division and the National Education Association recommending that all classrooms have interior-locking doors.