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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's building standards board cautioned schools Wednesday against buying or installing barricade devices meant to stop active shooters until rules are developed for the devices.
A law pushed by schools and device manufacturers went into effect earlier this summer prohibiting the state fire code from banning such devices. Rules due in March are just now under development, the Ohio Building Board of Standards said in a letter to schools and colleges obtained by The Associated Press.
"Schools are cautioned against purchasing and deploying devices before the rules take effect as some devices may not comply with the new rules," the letter said.
Regardless of the law, the standards board will still require the following, the letter said:
—Doors must be easy to open from the inside of a classroom without a key or special knowledge.
—Handles, pulls, latches, locks and other operating devices on doors can't require tight grasping, pinching or twisting of wrists to operate.
—Unlatching a door can't require more than one operation.
"We want to clear up any uncertainty or concerns Ohio's educators have regarding these barricade devices," said Jaqueline Williams, state Commerce Department director.
The letter said schools should work with local fire officials regarding proposed changes to buildings, including barricade devices, until the rules are approved. That's what school officials in Mentor in northeastern Ohio, where the district has already bought 800 devices, have been doing, said district spokeswoman Kristen Kirby.
The district's devices, which hang on the wall when not in use, slide beneath doors in a 10-second operation in case of emergencies. They cost $50 each and were approved by the city fire chief.
"We are working with the safety experts of our community that know what's best for our community," Kirby said.
Ohio's standards board opposed the devices before Gov. John Kasich approved them as part of the state budget. Many require specialized skills to install and then several steps to remove from a door to allow people to leave a room, according to a July report by the board begun before the law took effect.
Because of the hand motions required to install them and because they are sometimes placed on the floor, the devices also violate federal disability laws and can't be used by many people, including people with disabilities, and young, old or short people, the board concluded.
The devices could also prevent emergency responders from quickly getting inside a room, the report said, and many aren't visible from a hallway once in place.
Some of devices slide under a door, while others attach to a door handle. Some require holes drilled into the floor for security pins, but none pitched in Ohio alter the door itself.
School districts and device manufacturers lobbied lawmakers to allow the devices, alarmed by recent school shootings, including the 2012 killing of three students in Chardon, in northeastern Ohio.
Bill Barna, whose Ohio-based company Bolo Stick sells barricade devices, called the board's letter another setback for schools concerned about stopping intruders.
Support for the devices came despite concerns raised by some school security experts that they would do little to stop a shooter and could create dangerous situations, such as a student using a device to block a door to carry out a sexual assault.
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