Own the Door—Close the Door

24 January 2023

In school attacks where there is an officer in the building, the attacker engages with the officer first in less than 10% of the situations. You would think that they would first try to take out the officer but that is not the case. The attacker typically ignores the officer because they are not looking for a fight—but to get into the classroom. They’re fighting to get in and we’re fighting to keep them out.

Therefore, a school attack is really a fight for the classrooms!

One way we can be more successful is to discontinue the practice of teachers sweeping the halls to pull in students before closing their door. Instead, they should close their doors immediately! Opening the door or leaving it open to sweep the halls or nearby bathrooms or stairwells is giving the attacker exactly what they want—a chance to get into a classroom.

I know at first this may seem like a big change, but it's for the best.

I can remember when we implemented the strategy of having teachers sweep the halls. That was a very long time ago when we knew very little about the attacker. Unfortunately, we now know a great deal about school attackers, their mindset, and what they do.

For example, teachers who close and lock the door before the attacker can enter the classroom have nearly a 100% chance that the attacker will not be able to get in. If the door is locked, attackers try the handle and move to the next classroom. It is common for attackers to shoot through the door if they detect noise or movement, but they do not fight their way in by destroying the door or lock.

Sweeping the halls or opening the door will negate or lessen these remarkable odds.

Also, opening the door or sweeping the halls is counterintuitive and at odds with the goals of a lockdown. A lockdown is called because loss of life appears imminent. To hesitate or to open a closed door is confusing for teachers and therefore slows down their response/actions which goes against everything we know about school attacks.

Instead, I think we need to keep it unbelievably simple for teachers…

  1. Run to the door.
  2. Close and lock the door (keep it locked if possible).
  3. Get away from the door (run to your hide).

The hero of the story in a lockdown is the teacher. The single most important physical element is the classroom door. The one essential step for the teacher is to close the door. Therefore, I think the motto for the teachers should be…own the door—close the door.

The halls should be owned by administrators and staff. Any students and staff caught in the hall should run in the opposite direction of the noise. Leave the building if possible.

Without a doubt, this change in policy will speed up our lockdowns and stop the attacker from getting into more classrooms. It will also potentially leave more people in the halls.

Therefore, this switch will require some additional training. Administrators, teachers, and staff members, as well as students, will need a little bit of extra guidance in case they’re stuck in the halls during a lockdown. In truth, this needs to happen regardless. People must know what to do if they are not able to reach a hide location.

However, as far as policy is concerned the switch must be made and it should be clearly expressed. Teachers are to own the door—close the door. Others will sweep the halls.

By following this strategy the students will be the most protected.


Because of the wonderful nature of teachers, some will find this switch difficult. For many teachers their first inclination is to sweep the halls or open the door. However, this change in policy is the next right step in preventing violence and is necessary.

If you would like to discuss it further, have additional questions, or need help implementing the change in your school, please let me know. I’m happy to help!

Call or email with questions or to find out how we can help.

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