By Brandon Brown
All Cal State Dominguez Hills classrooms are expected to receive interior door locks following recent concerns over campus safety nationwide.
The decision to allow doors to be locked from the inside follows a review of how to best keep students safe in the event of an active shooter or similar crisis. Members of the campus community have voiced their concerns about security following mass shootings at educational campuses across the country. The June 2 shooting at UCLA, where a lone gunman killed his professor, sped up the effort to secure Dominguez Hills.
“After a couple of school shootings, campuses are starting to think about what they can do to make their campuses safer,” Paul Marsh, lead locksmith at CSUDH, said. “There really isn’t a system-wide master plan when it comes to locks. Each campus is different and has their own lock systems.”
During lockdowns, most schools urge students, staff and faculty to “shelter in place,” but during the chaos at UCLA, classroom occupants discovered that they were unable to lock the doors from the inside. That prompted hundreds of panicked posts and tweets from students, who struggled to barricade their classroom doors with belts, desks, furniture or whatever else they could find.
Existing state law dictates that newer public school buildings must include doors that lock from the inside if the space can hold five or more occupants. However, the law doesn’t apply to buildings that were in place before the law was enacted, which comprise the majority of structures across California.
In order to close this gap, the California Legislature introduced a bill in 2015 that would have required that all state-funded K-12, community college and university structures to comply with these requirements by 2022.
The bill died after failing to gain momentum last February, four months before the UCLA shooting. Since then, there have not been any official efforts to revive the measure.
CSUDH seems to be taking a proactive approach to improving campus safety by voluntarily installing the locks.
“Right now, all of the new buildings have the locks in the specs,” Marsh said, “and we’re working on replacing the rest of the locks.”
The installation of 150 new locks is already underway with full completion expected by Sept. 30. To minimize class disruption, the locks were supposed to be installed over summer break, but their delivery was delayed due to customs issues in Mexico, where the locks are manufactured.
“Most of the buildings are already done,” Marsh said. “We’re now focusing on the SBS and SC buildings. We typically start at 5 a.m. and try to get as much as we can done before classes start at 7 a.m. It usually takes about an hour per lock. If there’s two of us, we can usually do about five in the two hours.”
Wireless locking systems, the newest and, arguably most effective, way to ensure an immediate lockdown on campus, would grant campus officials and university police the ability to lock all campus doors at once from a central location.
“We’d really like the wireless locking systems,” Marsh said, “but they’re very expensive.”
According to NBC4 News, UCLA officials are also looking into this possibility. However, with limited funding to bankroll such projects, it’s not clear when or even if such options will become economically feasible for either campus.
The costs to install the locks at CSUDH were not immediately available. The cost of each lock is estimated to be upward of $150 each, but that doesn’t include installation, maintenance and related costs.
At least for now, students and faculty at CSUDH can have peace of mind knowing that they’re able to lock the doors at the push of a button should the need arise.