OLYMPIA HEIGHTS — With mass shootings becoming such a norm as to hardly stand out in the news cycle anymore, schools are grappling with some new considerations once completely foreign to them. One Miami -area private school is leading the pack with an innovative idea.
Florida Christian School, in unincorporated Olympia Heights, has begun selling $120 bulletproof panels on their website. The panels are approximately the size of a binder and designed to fit inside a student’s backpack to offer an additional measure of protection in the event of a shooting.
“It’s just a tool,” explained George Gulla, head of security for the school. “I’d rather be prepared for the worst than be stuck after saying, ‘Wow, I wish we would’ve done that.’”
Gulla provides drills for both students and parents on what to do if there’s a shooting. At one such a drill, a parent—Alex Cejas, president of ballistic armor company Applied Fiber Concepts—announced that he’d begun placing bulletproof panels in his son’s backpack. The idea took off from there.
The panels are very durable, and are able to stop bullets fired from .44 magnum handguns, though they do not protect effectively from rifle rounds.
Students are already advised to wear backpacks over their chests in a shooting scenario, and the panels make this defense even better.
“While books and stuff in your backpack may stop a bullet, they’re not designed to,” said Cejas. “I wouldn’t bet my life on it.”
Gulla—who, it should be noted, has never experienced a shooting at the school—is clearly someone who takes security seriously. He also has security cameras monitoring the school and uniformed guards on patrol. Parents have, by and large, been appreciative of his efforts.
Nothing is without it’s critics, though. School safety expert Kenneth Trump (presumably no relation) called the program “highly unusual” and felt that a lopsided focus on the perils of school shootings distracted from more present dangers.
“You’re bypassing grade school and jumping straight to grad school before you mastered the basics,” Trump opined.
He could have a point, but while the dangers posed by sex offenders and other predators is a real one, where’s the harm in trying not to get shot in the meantime?