Shootings elicit new CA bill

by Stacey Oparnica

Following the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and a recent shooting at Taft High School, Democrat Sen. Marty Block proposed legislation last Tuesday that would require all California classroom doors to be lockable from the inside.

The bill, labeled SB 316, would apply to classrooms containing five or more people and the locks must not prevent students from exiting freely. About 70 percent of California schools already have such locks, according to a press release. However, older classrooms—including dozens in San Diego County—require teachers to lock the doors from outside in the event of an emergency.

Existing law requires the installation of inside door locks in schools built after July 1, 2011. However, SB 316 would extend this by requiring the same from school modernization projects submitted after Jan. 1, 2014, as well.

“This is a very doable safety step that protects our teachers and students from campus intruders,” Block said, according to the press release. “Teachers and other staff should not be forced to expose themselves unnecessarily to danger while trying to protect our students.”

This isn’t the first time parents, teachers or lawmakers have raised questions about the safety measures and security of schools. However, after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn.—in which 20 children and six adults were shot and killed—the issue has once again been thrust into the public eye.

California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt supports the bill and considers it a “simple, common sense safety measure.”

Denise Perez, 42, is a mother of four and says she believes inside door locks will deter crime, but cannot magically fix the greater issues at hand that lead to school shootings in the first place, such as bullying.

“We need to be diligent as a community to protect our kids,” Perez said in an email. “Unfortunately, we need more than just doors that lock from the inside to protect them.”

She says additional security measures to consider include locking campuses during school hours—with only the front office as an entrance—and having an emergency button staff members can push in the office to warn teachers of an intruder.

Block said the cost of retrofitting classroom doors with new locks would range from $30 to $60 each and says he’s in the process of finding funding for school districts unable to pay, according to an article by 10News.

The bill should reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk this fall. If it passes, schools across California will have until January 2015 to install the locks.