ONLY ON KOLD: Locking students in - Tucson News Now

ONLY ON KOLD: Locking students in

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A recent CBS News report shows a dramatic rise in the number of school shootings in the past 13 years.

We've learned some schools are responding in a way that could be putting children in danger.

That report also found that in three out of four school shootings, the suspect walked right in through the main entrance.

But that's not stopping schools from putting up fencing and gates without permits, and putting the lockdown on exit routes that are critical in an emergency.
 
The horror of school shootings and parents in agony, scrambling to find their kids is a scene repeated too many times.

Those first few horrible minutes before help can arrive are so often the difference between life and death.

"You're not safe anywhere," one Mesa parent said. "You need to be prepared for anything."
 
Today's schools are challenged to determine how best to keep kids safe.
 
Fire Marshal Bob Barger said people need to be able to get away.
 
So we're sounding the alarm after finding a troubling trend in schools.
 
"It's probably been around the last six months that we caught up with the process of them actually locking the gates with chains and locks," said Bob Barger.
 
Barger is the state's top fire boss. He says too many schools are locking bad guys out, and in the process, locking children in.
 
Pictures show doors being secured with heavy chains and padlocks, clear violations of fire code.
 
Barger says, "When you lock it and chain it, that egress pass is impeded and they can't get out and you can't get away."
 
Calls to several fire departments across Arizona reveal it's a dangerous practice that's happening on campuses everywhere.
 
"The challenge of keeping kids safe is probably not knowing what the next incident will be," Hellen Hollands said.
 
Helen Hollands is with Mesa Public Schools, the largest district in the state. According to our sources, the district is the state's worst offender and is slow to fix the problem.  

The State Fire Marshal says Mesa has a history of non-compliance dating back to 2011 and that risky behavior has continued.

This year, the district was cited for violations at 16 schools.
 
"That's kind of scary," one parent said.
 
"I don't bring my kids to school to be in prison," another parent said.
 
Holland said, "In some situations, it was to prevent individuals from entering the campus."
 
Photos from state inspectors show gates attached to the building, double secured with self-locking doors and heavy-duty chains and locks.
 
So what's taking so long to fix the issue at this district?

"Getting the funding for them," Holland said.

"We don't want to create a situation where, because of security, we cause tragedy," Frederick Durham said.
 
Assistant State Fire Marshal Frederick Durham took 5 Investigates along for an inspection in Chandler.

He considers the Chandler School District a model of improvement.
 
Nearly everyone understands the difficult balance schools must attain in trying to keep kids safe.
But fire officials say breaking the law won't fix the problem.
 
Durham said, "Their hearts were in the right place, but we can't

The State Fire Marshalls Office now says the Mesa public schools have ramped up efforts to get the proper permits and fix those violations

They also say because of budget cuts, school inspections right now are running three years behind.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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