Thursday 22 February 2018

School starts selling bulletproof backpack panels to students

The panels are meant to protect students in the event of an active shooter

Stock photo
Stock photo

Emily Shugerman

A private, Christian school in Florida is offering bulletproof panels for its students' backpacks.

Florida Christian School in Miami lists a $120 “ballistic panel” for purchase on its website, under items like red t-shirts and winter gear.

The panels, according to dean of students and head of school security George Gulla, offer "another level of protection" to students "in the event of an active shooter”.

"The teachers are trained to instruct the students to use their backpacks as a shield to protect themselves," Gulla told CNN.

Mr Gulla declined to comment when reached by The Independent.

The panels are slim, binder-sized pieces of armour that weigh less than a pound, according to the Miami Herald. They are build to withstand bullets like a .44 Magnum and a .357 SIG, but not those from rifles.

The panels are manufactured by Applied Fiber Concepts, a body armour company owned by Florida Christian parent Alex Cejas. Mr Cejas has been putting the panels into the backpacks of his children, ages 11 and 13, since they started school.

When Mr Gulla started running active shooter drills with students, Mr Cejas took note. He reached out about setting up a custom order for other parents. Mr Gulla told the Herald the reaction from parents has been largely positive.

Mr Gulla started working at Florida Christian in 2012, shortly after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty children and six adults were killed in the shooting, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza opened fire on the Newtown, Connecticut school.

More than 200 school shootings have occurred in the US since then, according to the Los Angeles Times. In October of 2015, for example, 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer killed nine people and injured seven others at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. In 2013, John Zawahri shot and killed four people at Santa Monica College, before killing himself.

In the wake of these shootings, a market has sprung up for bullet-proof school accessories. At bulletblocker.com, parents can buy bulletproof backpack inserts, tablet cases, and binder inserts for their children. A school district in Minnesota spent upward of $25,000 outfitting their classrooms with bulletproof whiteboards.

Many school safety experts, however, are sceptical of the idea.

"After every high-profile school shooting, we have an explosion of gadgets, gurus and charlatans," school safety consultant Kenneth Trump told NPR. "Corporations see dollar signs, and believe that schools have huge budgets to buy new products and services.

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