Ohio State begins initiative of installing locks on classroom doors

The university hopes to complete one-third of the project before students return from holiday break.
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At Ohio State University, workers have begun the arduous task of installing manual locks on 600-classroom doors. The university hopes to complete one-third of the project before students return from holiday break.

"Which is just a fraction of the classrooms that we have on campus, but those 600 classrooms are the shared classrooms," said Bob Armstrong with OSU's Department of Public Safety.

The new safety measure is in direct response to a terror attack right on the OSU campus in November of 2016, when a man rammed his vehicle into a crowd of people and then began slashing at victims with a knife. The suspect, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, was shot and killed by OSU police moments after the attack began. As law enforcement searched for a possible accomplice, OSU pushed Buckeye Alerts warning students to "shelter in place." OSU said an after action report that solicited feedback from students, staff and faculty indicated a desire to have the ability to lock classroom doors from the inside.

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Columbus Police SWAT Lieutenant Paul Ohl said a locked door can be a successful deterrent in the event of an active aggressor attack.

"Most of these incidents, if you study them, the suspect is looking for easy prey," Ohl said.

The Columbus SWAT team not only responded to the OSU terror attack, but Ohl has taught active aggressive survival training to more than 8,000 central Ohioans. He said the February 2018, an attack at a high school in Parkland, Fla., showed what can happen when an active aggressor encounters a locked door.

"Nikolas Cruze, the suspect, went to that room tried to gain entry to it, and they had locked the door and he went past that door. He didn't try to breach that door," Ohl said.

Since the OSU terror attack, Ohio State University has also made available the Rave Guardian and Ohio State mobile apps that can push safety alerts in a matter of seconds. OSU also produced a nine-minute online active aggressor video to teach students how to survive an attack, and the university now has the power to override any official campus computer to send a warning directly to classrooms.

"We know all of our students turn their phones off during class, all of them," Armstrong said. "So, even if they happen to turn their phone off, they'll still get that message."

The new safety features come at a time when threats of school violence are on the rise. The Educator's School Safety Network, a national non-profit school safety organization, said in the 2017-2018 school year, there were 3380 documented threats nationwide. That's a 62 percent increase from the year before. The increase in actual incidents is even more alarming. This past school year included at least 279 incidents of violence compared to 131 events in the 2016-2017 school year, an increase of 113-percent. Threats of gun violence were the most common. Shooting threats accounted for 38.8 percent of all threats.

Armstrong said while added security features are a necessity, the number of safety incidents on the OSU campus remain remarkably low.