Florida schools must lock all doors during learning hours starting July 1, creating some challenges

In an attempt to make campuses safer, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a new law that will require all doors, hallways, and gates in and around schools to be locked during all learning hours.

School officials say it’s a step in the right direction for safety, but it’s creating logistical issues with different protocols needed at every campus -- and taking into account many different ages of students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

"All classrooms, you can get out. It's a matter of trying to keep bad guys from getting in. That's the issue," says Lee Bryant, President, Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. "[Locking doors] seems very simple and, in concept, it is very simple, but in implementing it is not so simple. There's a lot of mobility that goes on in a school system, and we have to program that in. We don't want to teach in a prison."

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He says they are thinking about simple things like bathroom breaks and trips to the clinic during the day. Each campus can institute a different approach, with some campuses considering individualized key cards or programmable hall passes, but those options can be costly.

"I met with the chief of police for Pinellas County schools. I met with the safety officer for Pinellas County Schools. We also have met with the head of buildings. We sat down and we started talking about it because we want to make our teachers safe. We want to keep them informed. We want to keep them out of trouble," said Bryant.

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Pinellas County sheriff Bob Gualteri led a statewide committee on improving Florida campuses after the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas shooting in 2018. He said they learned a lot from the Parkland shooting, and things like locked doors are very important because a school shooting will happen again.

This law goes into effect on July 1, but will be put to the test when students return to campus in the fall.

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