Bulletproof Classrooms: Solution or Sign of the Times?

school_shootingsWith the recent upsurge in school shootings – 43 in the last three years, resulting in 76 and 64 injuries – its little wonder why various school-based options at are being explored. These range from more guns (arming teachers and administrators) to incorporating special alarms that would allow for high-speed response. But perhaps the most creative (albeit odd) response comes in the form of a bulletproofing a classroom.

Specifically, armored whiteboards and bulletin boards (known as “Safeboards”) are being proposed as a last line of defense against gunmen. Developed by the International Armoring Corporation – a Utah-based company that manufactures lightweight armored passenger vehicles for heads of state, celebrities, and even the Pope – these boards are unobtrusive classroom objects that double as bulletproof barriers.
safeboard1In the event of a shooting, a teacher could manually slide and lock them in front of a door within a few seconds. Another version folds away from the wall to create a classroom safe haven that could fit up to 37 average-sized first graders. The Safeboards are capable of resisting the bullets of high-powered rifles, like those used in a number of school shootings in recent years.

The company began developing the product last year before the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut took place. After a few school officials near IAC’s headquarters heard about how the company manufacture lightweight armor for protective vehicles, they asked if there were any affordable products that could improve safety in the event of a school shooting.

safeboard2Bulletproof doors already exist, but they expensive and are very heavy. This can be problematic since these doors still need to be used by children dozens of times a day. According to IAC’s CEO Mark Burton, the sliding Safeboard, made with the firm’s standard lightweight material, starts at $1,850 and is light enough that it can be open and closed even by children.

Though no purchases have been made yet, the risk management director of the David School District of Utah (home to some 70,000 students), a school architect and a police liaison witnessed a demonstration of the technology. The district has already upgraded its alarms and camera systems, but director Scott Zigich, indicated that additional measures are being weighed:

Just this week [the country] had a shooting at an airport, a shooting at a school, a shooting at a mall. We are very active in trying to increase the safety level of our students and employees due to the frequent nature of violent attacks.

hardwireThe state of Utah and IAC are hardly alone on this issue. Earlier this year, another company in Maryland responded to the need for added security by developing small armored whiteboards that would act more like individual shields. Here, the company behind the design is Hardwire, whose product is already being featured at the Worcester Preparatory School in Berlin, Maryland.

Interestingly enough, these whiteboards use the same light material that is used by company to protect military vehicles from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, many schools have come to see the issue of gun violence in terms of guerrilla warfare, and are responding accordingly. According to Hardwire CEO George Tunis:

[The Whiteboards] basically take handguns out of the equation. We can certainly make them to stop any threat in the world, but what we wanted was something handheld for the teachers.

SchoolShootingsFor some time, a debate has raged around the United States, especially in the wake of Sandy Hook shooting. At its core is the question of what constitutes appropriate defensive measures for schools in a society where guns are easy for almost anyone to obtain. And some schools have considered armed guards or even armed teachers.

However, people like Mark Burton believes guns as a defense weapon often do more harm than good in schools, and considers the Safeboard to be a less disruptive and cost-effective measure that could give a classroom under siege needed time until police arrive. For budget-strapped schools, the decision is a financial issue as well as a safety one.

school_shootings1Over the lifetime of the product, Burton claims a Safeboard would cost as little as $5 a student, and IAC will also offer a financing program. But ultimately, its about finding ways to deal with the issue that doesn’t involve escalation. As Burton explained:

This is whole new territory. It’s kind of a fine line to walk. It is a sensitive issue, but in some cases, I think it could save lives.

And in the end, one has to wonder, are armored classrooms the only recourse to arming teachers and administrators? Is the issue of gun control really so elusive and untouchable that Americans must choose between more armor or more weapons in schools? What does it take to protect our children without treating our classrooms like they are warzones?

Sources: fastcoexist.com, www.wjla.com

15 thoughts on “Bulletproof Classrooms: Solution or Sign of the Times?

  1. I’d like to see more done in the name of PREVENTING the need for such drastic measures. But of course, the NRA and its puppets would say that any measures restricting gun rights is basically trampling on the constitution.

    1. And that more guns are the solution, and that if people in every school were armed, they’d be able to kill the perpetrators. Never mind the escalated violence that would happen while they’re waiting for an incident to happen…

      1. The goal should be to reduce violence and stop it from even becoming a problem. Apparently when gun rights are at stake though, nothing can be done.
        They might think differently if they were affected by gun violence at any point.

  2. But these are only symptomatic solutions they do not deal the problem at its root. They only transmit the sensation that they are doing something against the problem. And what is the problem? The weapons? The NRA? The Government? The society?
    I think there are many factors to consider but of course that a quick and easy solution does not exist and they would be fools when they believe so.

    1. Bingo. I for one can’t imagine why the US can’t enjoy the same levels of per capita violence and shootings as any other developed nation. The argument that there is something intrinsic to American culture that precipitates it has never held up to scrutiny.

      1. The mentally ill need to be healed. They are broken inside. They’d rather not be like that. God heals from the inside out so people are no longer broken. Meds can’t do that.
        I don’t think schools are the place to bring such healing. It just seems we were saver and healthier when we believed. That believe affected all of society. Taking God out has also affected all of society.

      2. Phyllis, I would never disrespect your beliefs or say that people who hold them are in the wrong. But it really sounds like your taking a blame position, which I really can’t agree with. Not only does this seem like a “blame the victim” mentality, it also paints a pretty ugly picture of God. If tragedies happen because we don’t believe, or don’t mandate religion in schools, then it makes God out to be a vengeful and terrible being.

        And as someone who has multiple friends with anxiety disorders, and who suffers from OCD himself, I know for a fact that meds do help. To say that only faith heals is to ignore the very poor record faith healing has. While I agree that faith is a powerful tool in healing, that doesn’t mean that only faith in God is valid.

        It’s easy to look back and say “things were so much better then”, and even easier to blame ourselves and say its our fault for not believing, losing faith, or not having values anymore. People have been doing that since the beginning of time, and its never once solved anything. And most of the time, its not even true. Problems have always existed, and to beat them we have to be realistic as well as have faith in something.

        But again, that’s just me and we can certainly agree to disagree. That’s the only way society can function, right? 🙂

      3. I am so sorry, I didn’t mean that at all.
        Here is where typing and not speaking in person can mess with a conversation.
        My mom was on meds. I know they helped. I also know God heals. Yet Mom never was. I don’t have the answers. It’s a continual search.
        And not to worry, I don’t have a problem with a disagreement. It’s part of a relationship, even between blog friends. ;0)

    1. I agree. I held back from saying what I really thought just so it didn’t seem like I was editorializing and other people could draw their own conclusions. I think the people behind them have good intentions, but I think it makes about as much sense as 7 day waiting periods. In other words, they miss the point entirely.

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