Since the Sandy Hook school massacre in December, how to prevent these types of massacres have dominated the news. There are various gun control laws being debated and others, notably the NRA, have pitched having armed guards in schools.
One idea that is starting to get some media notice is the idea of teachers and students having white boards, dry erase boards, that are bulletproof, and can be used as shields that are resistant to an attacker’s bullets. (The photo above is courtesy of bullet-resistantdryeraseboards.com) So far as I can see, there are two companies that are manufacturing the bullet-resistant boards. One is Hardwire, a firm in Maryland. Here is an article about its efforts. The other firm, Bullet-Resistant Dry Erase Boards, is in Arizona, and its website is here. FULL DISCLOSURE: The Arizona company is run by a relative of mine. I have no financial interest in the firm and am offering no endorsement or preference. The topic of boards to protect educators and students interests me. It will be interesting to see if these board products become a protection tool at many schools.
To build its boards, Hardwire uses a polyethylene-based textile called Dyneema. The firm donated 90 of its white boards, or $20,000 worth, to a local school. Bullet-Resistant Dry Erase Boards cost less. According to its website, its boards’ construction includes a bullet-resistant fiberglass panel from a firm called ArmorCore. Prices range, based on size and panel-level protection, from $28 a board to $62 a board.
Hardwire’s board sizes are 18 by 20 inches and 10 by 13 inches. Bullet-Resistant Dry Erase Boards range from 14 by 11 inches, 19 by 14 inches and 22 by 16 inches. The larger boards are constructed with handles in the back.
The bulletproof boards are being discussed within the education press. This blog from Education Week Teacher discussed the Arizona company’s product and even totaled what the total cost would be to provide the boards for a classroom. The blogger, Liana Heitin, tabbed the cost at between $700 to $1,550 per classroom. The blogger addressed a concern that I’m sure many teachers would face: “How do you explain the “dual purpose” of these dry-erase boards to young students without completely freaking them out?”
As for the use of the boards, the Hardwire CEO described them in the USA Today article as as “a last line of defense against attackers with handguns,” a tool that can buy the teachers and students time before law enforcement arrives. The Bullet-Resistant Dry Erase Boards website says this: “Bullet-resistant dry erase boards can be built with handles on one side so that children can easily use the whiteboard as a bullet
resistant shield. They could be placed under or in students’ desks, fastened to the side of desks, or even positioned in backpacks for quick access and protection. School administrators could conduct school wide drills and various training exercises to teach students how to effectively protect their vital body parts from a gunman who enters the school.”
The boards have attracted attention in Washington D.C. On the website, Congress.org, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., posted a letter from a constituent that urged Congress to allocate funding for the bullet-resistant boards. And Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze has posted an article touting the product from Hardwire, calling it “an amazing invention that could save students’ lives.”
What’s my take on this? I guess I’d say every idea in trying to stem gun violence deserves to be heard. Less than two months after the Newtown massacre, the cry for conventional gun control measures (assault weapons ban, magazine limits …) are already losing steam. Armed guards in every school may be too expensive. Maybe shields that can protect against gunfire might be a help against attacks that are random, very rare and almost impossible to predict, particularly against an attacker who anticipates no resistance in zones often free of guns.