Thomas Jefferson employee invents life-saving lock

Photo by Grant Stoner | The Duquesne Duke
Photo by Grant Stoner | The Duquesne Duke
Photo by Grant Stoner | The Duquesne Duke

By Grant Stoner | The Duquesne Duke

The Sandy Hook Elementary massacre on Dec. 14, 2012 deeply affected Thomas Jefferson High School maintenance worker Jay Atkinson; so much so, that his grief was the catalyst for developing a product capable of preventing similar tragedies.

Within a year of the shooting, Atkinson manufactured the first prototypes of AUXLOC, an auxiliary locking device for classroom doors, in his West Elizabeth garage.

“It took about 15 minutes to make it, believe it or not,” he said.

After several years, he now has a patent in China and is currently awaiting approval for a patent in the U.S.

The AUXLOC is a two-piece steel lever which incorporates an internal lock-and-pin system. Since classroom doors swing outward toward the hallways, Atkinson’s locking device is designed to attach to the side of the door facing inward toward the room. Once mounted to the bottom of the door via special screws, the lock can be engaged by simply kicking the lever into the safety position.

Atkinson’s concern for utilizing the AUXLOC is justified. Having spent 14 years at the high school, he is well aware of the routine for lockdown procedures.

Although teachers are required to lock their doors during class, the possibility of an attack still remains. If an active shooter were to break the panel of glass on the door, they could conceivably put their arm through the opening and turn the lock to gain entrance.

“If a gunman would come in, and say I would be at the front counter, or anywhere close — if he would take me out, I have a master key to the whole building,” he explained. “With this, he can’t.”

The implications are frightening.

Herein lies the beauty of the design of the AUXLOC — if that scenario did occur, Atkinson’s invention would prevent an intruder from entry because they would be unable to reach where the device is attached.

Once the situation is secured, the locks can be disengaged with a custom-made allen wrench key, which would be provided to all teachers and appropriate personnel.

Since AUXLOC is a small startup company, funds are limited for marketing. Thankfully, when WTAE showed an interest in featuring his product this past December, the potential for Atkinson’s lock to reach a larger audience became attainable.

Thanks to the online WTAE story, interest in the lock did indeed increase. People contacted him from across the country, inquiring about the application and availability of the device.

To date, no purchase orders have been submitted by any school districts. Yet he is not deterred, and is currently developing a new locking device to protect employees while in their work spaces.

“Helping to Keep Our Children Safe” is his business’ motto. An appropriate one, especially considering his connection with the high school.

“I hope you never have to use it. Never. And I tell people that. I hope you never, ever, ever have to use it, but it’s there,” he said.

“You’re safe.”


  1. As a door and hardware professional who works on new school construction and school renovation projects, I can tell you this device is nothing but trouble.
    – It violates the national building code- NFPA 101- by restricting free egress and by requiring special knowledge and more than one action to exit.
    – It can be used by unauthorized personnel to lock out teachers. This could lead to any number of incidents and delay intervention by school staff.

  2. As a former teacher and now grandmother I support the Auxloc. I think it’s the answer to the problems the schools are facing. If school districts don’t think the worse can happen then they are not facing reality. I live in the Jefferson Hills school district. I want my grandchildren and the staff to be safe. With the Auxloc they will be! Be PROACTIVE NOT REACTIVE! Perfect time with a new high school being built and it wouldn’t be hard to install in the other schools.

    Thank you for this article. Well done!

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