Buono Announces Legislation Requiring Interior Classroom Locks

Simple solution may have saved lives at Virginia Tech

TRENTON – In a bid to prevent tragedies such as the Virginia Tech massacre, Senator Barbara Buono today unveiled a proposal which would require the installation of locks on the inside of classroom doors in every school and college within New Jersey. Safety experts say that while school officials across the nation re-evaluate safety procedures many are overlooking a simple solution, putting locks on the inside of classroom doors.

“Many Virginia Tech students hid in their classrooms. A locked door could have discouraged the shooter from attempting to enter the classrooms, preventing numerous deaths,” said Senator Buono. “While our state has not experienced such a tragedy, we must not become complacent, believing it can’t happen here.”

In a nationwide survey cited by the Centers for Disease Control, 17% of students reported carrying a gun or knife. The State Department of Education released a report which found that the number of incidents involving guns and knives in New Jersey’s public schools have increased. These statistics clearly show that we need to take a proactive approach in protecting children from physical violence.

Some schools have already developed their own security programs with the installation of metal detectors, cameras and identification cards. However, an interior lock would add a layer of protection that a security camera or metal detector could not provide. Virginia Tech is currently considering installation of interior classroom locks.

According to a recent Associated Press article, interior locks may have saved lives during the 2005 Red Lake Indian Reservation school shooting in Minnesota. A troubled Minnesota teen entered that school with a .22 caliber gun through a doorway with a metal detector and shot a security guard to death before proceeding into the school where he killed five students and a teacher before taking his own life. The shooter tried to get into several classrooms but failed because the doors were locked from the inside.

The bill would require each public and nonpublic school and each public and independent institution of higher learning to install a lock on the inside of any classroom door within six months of the bill’s enactment. Any costs incurred for this purpose will be borne by the state.

“The cost for the installation of interior locks would be minimal, but the benefit would greatly outweigh any cost,” said Senator Buono.

Senator Buono will introduce this legislation when the Legislature reconvenes in November and will seek to schedule it for a hearing as soon as possible.