The lede of a recent Washington Post story reads, “The bulletproof panels are designed to withstand multiple rounds from a handgun — and two of this season’s bestsellers are emblazoned with Disney princesses and Avengers superheroes.”
The writer is referring to bulletproof backpacks, which, in today’s America, have seen sales risen every year since 2016. Apparently, students can also buy bulletproof clipboards and three-ring binder inserts.
TuffyPacks, which makes such products, has a link on its website for parents. It shows a four-stage picture of how a young child should hide behind his or her fortified backpack. Accompanying safety tips also warn, in a bold font, “Parents, if your child has a ballistic shield in his or her backpack, please instruct your child not to disclose this to the other children in their classroom or at school. In the event of an imminent shooting threat, your child’s backpack could be taken by another student.”
Is this really who we are?
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An online search for “self-defense school supplies” reveals a troubling array of products that’s either horrifying or comforting, depending on your perspective. From our viewpoint, the former clearly is the case.
Aside from various personal alarms and pepper sprays, options for schools and students today include:
• A 17-Piece Deluxe Classroom Lockdown Kit that’s been reduced 17 bucks to $99.99. The product includes, but is not limited to, water purification tablets, toilet bags with associated chemicals, and first aid equipment.
• Smith & Wesson offers the Delta Force PL-10. It’s a penlight with a “crenulated (serrated) tip for self-defense and DNA retention.”
• Invisawear makes smart jewelry and other accessories with discreet buttons that can send S.O.S. messages to emergency contacts and/or law enforcement.
• Minnesota-based 3M has installed safety and security film on the glass at thousands of schools across the U.S. “While potential intruders will not be fully stopped from entering a school building,” reads the company’s marketing materials, “(it) can act as a deterrent and provide precious extra response time by slowing the intruder down.”
Thankfully, local school-supply lists we came across don’t require any of the aforementioned items. It’s refreshing to see crayons on elementary lists, colored pencils on those for middle school and calculators at the high school level.
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As for the high-tech — and pricey — protective options, their effectiveness has come into question, according to the Washington Post. “Academics who study mass shootings say there is little, if any, proof that bullet-resistant products make children safer,” the story reads. “Instead, they say, schools and lawmakers should focus on preventing gun violence by banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
Nevertheless, this is not to criticize parents who opt for such survival supplies. It’s their job to protect their children by whatever reasonable means they deem necessary.
But it’s government’s job to ensure society is as safe as possible for all concerned. If it’s not, the powers that be should be taking steps to limit the risk associated with something as simple as going to school.
Domestic terrorism is an undeniable threat in this country, but our youth should be more worried about homework, exams and tryouts than the correct body positioning to assume behind a bulletproof backpack.
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor