Parents at one Miami-area school are being offered the chance to purchase bulletproof panels for their children’s backpacks to guard against a school shooting.
Florida Christian School, a K-12 nondenominational private school, distributes an order form for the $120 ballistic panel on its website. The insert, which reportedly weighs less than a book, can be slipped into a backpack as a security tool, the school’s head of security told The Miami Herald.
“It’s just a tool,” said George Gulla. “I’d rather be prepared for the worst than be stuck after saying, ‘Wow, I wish we would’ve done that.'”
Gulla reportedly has employed a number of other security measures at the school, including sound-enabled surveillance cameras and uniformed security guards. He’s also held active-shooter drills in which students are told to hold their backpacks close to their chests as a protective layer.
The less-than-a-pound soft armor plates can turn backpacks into potentially lifesaving bullet-blockers, but they’re not required, Gulla said. The plates are reportedly able to stop bullets from a handgun like a .44 Magnum or a .357 SIG, but not rifle bullets that would require heavier armor.
The panels are produced by Applied Fiber Concepts – an area body armor company founded by Alex Cejas, a parent at the school. Last year, Cejas attended one of Gulla’s active-shooter drills, which led to his company offering to make custom plates for students.
“While books and stuff in your backpack may stop a bullet, they’re not designed to,” Cejas told the Herald. “I wouldn’t bet my life on it.”
An ongoing, nationwide debate on gun control in the U.S. has continually resurfaced over the years in conjunction with mass shootings, some of which have occurred on educational campuses.
In 2012, a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, left 20 children and six staff members dead. Most recently, the public debate on guns has flared in the wake of mass killings at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, last weekend and at a Las Vegas outdoor music festival last month. High-powered weapons were used in each.
The binder-sized armor panels can be slipped alongside a student’s books.