Can a Folsom company end school shootings?

Groups says it can secure classrooms, but is having trouble securing interest

A new Folsom-based company that professes to have a simple safeguard against school shootings is having trouble scrounging up customers.

Classroom Secure’s rapid-lock system is the brainchild of Somerset inventor Roger Koughan, who hatched the idea after a fired janitor gunned down the principal of a Placerville elementary school in 2011. The killing of Sam LaCara moved Koughan, a design engineer, to create a locking mechanism that allows teachers to quickly seal a door from the inside, but still allows anyone with a key to enter from the outside, said company co-founder Jeff Burkholder. “What it does is lock bad guys on the outside,” he said.

Burkholder and business partner Terry Carroll, publisher of the Folsom-based Style magazine, arranged to buy the patent off Koughan when the inventor moved to Idaho, Burkholder said.

But with no official interest from Sacramento schools, it could be a while before the start-up duo makes enough scratch to do that.

The pair’s sales pitch isn’t subtle. On the same day that school shootings were reported in Kentucky and North Carolina, Burkholder emailed a press release to “remind the media” that Classroom Secure could help prevent such tragedies. A promotional video on the company’s website goes further, depicting a faceless gunman turning away from a classroom only after a math teacher latches his door using the device.

But the company’s invention likely wouldn’t have prevented last week’s shootings in Kentucky and North Carolina. Both incidents derived from altercations between individual students that occurred outside of classrooms, according to media reports.

The rapid-lock system probably wouldn’t have saved LaCara, either, as his assailant entered the Louisiana Schnell Elementary School principal’s office before the shooting occurred.

Yuba City High School has a version of the devices in its portable classrooms. Principal Martin Ramirez didn’t know whether they originated from Classroom Secure during its testing phase, as Burkholder claimed, but did praise their effectiveness. “We’re talking a second to pull the lever,” he said.

To Ramirez’s recollection, the devices hadn’t been used during emergency situations.

Individuals have nominated nine schools—four in the San Juan Unified School District—to enter into an arrangement that would result in the security devices being installed for free. Classroom Secure requests at least three nominations per school before it will create a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to install the devices by a bonded contractor, which runs about $115 apiece, or $13,500 to install the devices in 100 doors. As of October 7, the only school with two nominations was Genevieve Didion Elementary School in the Sacramento City Unified School District.

The company also needs school cooperation to spread word about the fundraising campaigns and permit installation. For a time, Burkholder couldn’t get any schools to return his calls or emails. “We’re trying to do something,” he groaned.

Reached by phone last Friday, Didion principal Norm Policar said he hadn’t heard of the company, but was intrigued by its offer and would check out the website. “I’d like to know more about it,” he said.

Policar added that any emails from Burkholder might have ended up in his spam folder, along with other sales pitches.

At least one nominated school isn’t interested. On Monday, Bella Vista High School principal Peggy Haskins emailed Burkholder and SN&R to say her classrooms already had “top market mechanical locks” that lock from the inside, “so it would not be a big advantage to us to switch to your product.”