PATERSON, NJ – In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, some Paterson school teachers are worried because the locks on their classroom doors don’t work.
The teachers, who asked that their names not be published because of possible reprisals from the school district, said the lack of locks would put them and their students at risk in a situation like the one in Newtown.
News reports have said that some teachers at Sandy Hook school protected their students and themselves by locking their classroom doors. In fact, in some cities around the country, school districts required that their teachers lock classroom doors on Monday as a precaution. But experts disagree about the merits of lockdown procedures in a crisis.
In September, Paterson Public Schools began reviewing the condition all locks in all its schools, said district spokeswoman Terry Corallo.
“According to our facilities director, this work began with the Eastside and JFK buildings, and both schools have been completed.’’ Coralllo said.
The director, Chris Sapara-Grant, is now working on the rest of Paterson’s schools, Corallo said. “However, to accelerate these efforts even further, Mr. Sapara-Grant is now looking into the assistance of contractors to help complete this effort across all schools in the district,’’ she said.
Teachers’ union leaders say they have complained for years about the problem with locks on classroom doors. “It’s been that way for a while,’’ said Peter Tirri, president of the Paterson Education Association. “Why do we have mandatory lock-down procedures when you don’t have a lock that you can lock.’’
“Without locks on classroom doors, we are putting the teachers and students at great risk,’’ said one teacher.
The PEA has filed some complaints with the school district alleging that some teachers don’t have the keys they need to lock their doors.
An incident in October heightened concerns about violence among some city school staff members. The irate husband of a teacher was arrested outside International High School and charged with making threats against her. The husband also was charged with possession of hollow-nose bullets, but police at the time said he did not have a gun on him.
About 10 years ago, a man with a gun entered School 10, Tirri said. But the incident was defused when the principal approached the gunman and asked him to leave, he said.
Tirri welcomed the news that the district was checking all classroom locks. “I’m happy that they realize this is a serious situation,’’ said Tirri. “I want to see the process speeded up as much as possible.’’