Correction: A previous version of this story said that school officials were considering locking doors to schools from the outside. Officials have only said they're considering locking doors and did not specify any further details.
Following the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 elementary school students and two teachers were killed, New York City officials said they are considering locking the main front doors at public schools.
According to city's education department, main doors at school buildings are required to stay unlocked in case of an emergency, while all other exterior doors are supposed to remain locked.
At a press conference with Mayor Eric Adams this week, Schools Chancellor David Banks said he is considering whether front doors should be bolted as well. His focus on added security comes following concerns over how the Uvalde shooter entered the school.
“We all feel the necessity to do more at this time,” he said. “And that's why we're talking about perhaps even just locking our doors once our students are in school, and making visitors have to stop and identify themselves before they come in.”
Jenna Lyle, a spokesperson for the city’s education department, said the department is working with the FDNY and NYPD “to explore all possible options to make certain that our schools remain as safe as possible.”
Mara Getz Sheftel, whose children attend PS 118 in Brooklyn, said parents have been clamoring for the front door there to be locked for years. Getz Sheftel added that the school safety agent sits on top of the stairs “far above the entrance.”
“Parents would really like the front door to be locked and for people to be buzzed in,” she said
The day after the shooting in Uvalde, Getz Sheftel said an intruder got into her children’s school and ran down the hallways screaming, prompting a lockdown. Getz Sheftel said the school “did everything right,” but “New York has to do better.”
But some parents think locking the door is not the solution.
“I think the problem is every time we talk about how we are going to make our kids safe we’re talking about making more of a fortress,” said Anne Miller, a parent at PS 107 in Brooklyn. “The question shouldn’t be whether we lock one door or not … the question should be are we building a society … that’s safe for them.”
Parent Christine Ramirez in the Bronx said she’s conflicted, caught between the world she’s afraid her children live in, and the one she wishes they had.
“I don’t want them to have to lock the door,” Ramirez said. “It’s very frustrating and sad for me.”
Mark Cannizzaro, head of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, said he is in favor of locking front doors, as well as adding school safety agents.
However several administrators – who did not want to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the press – said, in practice, it may be difficult to keep the front door locked.
According to one Brooklyn elementary school principal, parents are often dropping kids off late or picking them up early, there’s a constant stream of deliveries, and after school staff or other providers come in and out.
“For each of these things, the doorbell will ring and someone will have to go open it,” the principal said. “It’s not a big price for safety, but it is disruptive.”
An assistant principal at a Bronx middle school said she thinks locking the front doors sends the wrong message to students and the community. “We’re shutting people out that aren’t the problem, and once again students of color are placed under more restrictions,” she said.
She said she worries far more for students’ safety outside school. “Am I afraid of my kids getting shot in the streets by stray bullets? Yes,” she said. “What are we doing about that?”
This story has been updated.