Madison School Board member Kate Toews had a suggestion for the district at Monday night’s board meeting: an interior lock on every classroom door.
Toews’ idea came towards the end of a board discussion about the 2018-2019 school district budget. Toews said the Madison Metropolitan School District should install locks on all classrooms that teachers can secure from the inside of their rooms as a safety tool in case an emergency occurs on campus.
“I don't want to derail the meeting, but I do feel the need to address (what happened) last week in Florida. I think families have a right to expect when they send their kids to schools here, we’ve done everything we possibly can to keep their kids safe,” Toews said.
The shooting on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, claimed the lives of 14 students and three staff members. A former Stoneman Douglas High School student, Nikolas Cruz, confessed to the crime.
Toews referenced the 2015 Sandy Hook Advisory Commission report, submitted to Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy in the aftermath of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown. The 16 member commission, comprised of mental health practitioners, law enforcement personnel, facility designers and public policymakers, compiled their recommendations to help prevent another event like the Sandy Hook shooting.
“We currently don’t have internally locking doors in most of our buildings," Toews said. "It is the number one recommendation from the Sandy Hook commission.”
“‘There has never been an event in which an active shooter breached a locked classroom door’,” Toews said, quoting an italicized line from the report.
Currently, most Madison schools only have doors that lock with a key from the outside.
Last January, the district commissioned Plunkett Raysich Architects to grade all of its facilities. Many schools, including Cherokee, Allis, Elvehjem, Emerson, Falk, Glendale, Huegel, Kennedy, Lake View, Lindbergh, Mendota, Shorewood Hills, Stephens, Thoreau, Marquette-O'Keefe, Wright, Toki-Orchard Ridge, Schenk-Whitehorse, Spring Harbor, La Follette, Memorial and West — were dinged in the report for not having interior locking doors.
Most schools received a C, D or F grade for the condition of classroom locks.
Although the focus of Monday’s School Board meeting was a high-level review of budget and staffing projections, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham addressed Toews' comments.
“We’ve already been looking at the locks issue,” Cheatham said.
Rachel Strauch-Nelson, media and government relations director for MMSD said in an emailed statement to the Cap Times that the district plans to install new locks by the end of the summer.
"Our facilities team is taking on this project to update locks on all classroom doors so they can be locked from the inside of the classroom," Strauch-Nelson said.
"Right now we are nailing down an exact timeline and final cost. Our goal is to have the project complete by the start of the school year."
Toews, who also called for school-based teams to access risks and update training for school staff to handle active shooters, said interior locks are a "critical investment" in school safety. Toews' two oldest children, ages 5 and 8, are MMSD students.
"We have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep our kids safe in school. The main lesson from Sandy Hook was that simply moving locks from the outside to the inside of a door can save lives," Toews said. "We need to invest in training and emotional and behavioral health, but we also need to bring our buildings up to date to match current standards."