Focus of ‘close door policy’ meant to protect students

Photo by Zonghui Li | The Prospectus Public Safety sergeant Matthew Kopmann (left) and officer Scott Granitz (right) monitor the hallways on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015. Public Safety officers make sure doors to ongoing classes are closed to insure the safety of students

Photo by Zonghui Li | The Prospectus
Public Safety sergeant Matthew Kopmann (left) and officer Scott Granitz (right) monitor the hallways on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015. Public Safety officers make sure doors to ongoing classes are closed to ensure the safety of students

Matthew Moss

Staff Writer

A policy instituted by the Parkland Campus Police has instructors close their doors at class time, a move meant to provide greater safety and security to students and staff.

However, questions about whether the policy is voluntary or mandatory have led to some confusion amongst the Parkland staff.

The close-doors-at-class-time policy in place at Parkland was introduced in the wake of school shootings across the country. Protecting Parkland students and faculty in the event of a shooting is the primary focus of the policy.

According to Matthew Kopmann, a sergeant with Parkland’s police force, it has been found that closing the door to a classroom deters a shooter from attempting to enter the room; instead, they target open doors.

“If there is an emergency outside, such as an active shooter, the thought is that if a door is closed, they’re not going to try and go in through that door,” Kopmann said. “If there is an open door, they’re most likely to hit that door rather than a closed door.”

Greg Whitlock, a psychology professor at Parkland, stated his understanding is that the policy is voluntary. However, he believes that it is never a bad thing to afford students more safety in the classroom and that it should be adhered to regardless.

Whitlock says that safety for his students is always a major concern for him. An incident of one of his students being threatened by her significant other has affirmed his belief in the policy.

“He had threatened to kill her here,” Whitlock said. “That alone had made me see the wisdom of putting up every barrier that I humanly could.”

Currently, there are no consequences for instructors who fail to close a classroom door. Kopmann says that police will close the door to a classroom if it is not already.

Whitlock said it is possible a large percentage of Parkland’s part-time instructors are not aware of the policy or its significance. He said part-time faculty often do not see the presentations on the subject put on by Parkland’s police.

As part of the policy, students are not to be allowed into a class once it begins because it could be difficult to discern if a student has a concealed weapon.

Whitlock said he does lock tardy students out once class starts. He said he has no malicious intent in doing this, but refuses to place the safety of his students in jeopardy for a late arrival.

Kopmann says that it is ultimately up to the instructor to decide what to do in that instance, and that the police do not have a hand in the matter.

The policy also has the additional purpose of promoting the learning environment. Closing the door to a class gives each class its own atmosphere without hindering that of another.

“If one [class] is taking a test and one is watching a documentary, we try to keep the door closed for them,” Kopmann said.

Kopmann cited noise in the hallways as a being a potential disruption to classes, which can be combated by simply closing the door.