Monday, August 26, 2013

Bullets and White Boards: School Safety Issues

Along with the usual Labor Day stories about problems with school funding and reminders that it is only six short weeks until the next three-day weekend, the media will also report on school shootings. Sadly, we have already seen a couple of incidents. With Sandy Hook in mind, a number of companies have come out with "protective" school equipment and they are getting plenty of media attention.

One article in particular caught my eye.  Perhaps you've seen it? Small, bulletproof white boards that will be furnished to some college professors were the subject of a brief story in The Baltimore Sun.  (You can read it here.)

A number of things came to mind as I read the story:
  • Only the professors are important. No white boards for the kids.
  •  An 18 x 20 inch board will not protect much of an adult's body. If one protects one's head, the torso is exposed. Cover the torso and the head is vulnerable. While the bullets are flying, the user must decide what vital body part is most important.
  • The school administrators have no concept of realistic safety alternatives and obviously didn't consult someone who does. 
I chatted with a couple of police officers about these boards. One asked where the board would be kept while the teacher is teaching. On the floor? All the victims at Sandy Hook were killed within a five minute time frame, the shooter going rapidly from room to room.  By the time a professor reacts to what is happening and gets a board into place, the shooter has already reloaded and is moving on to the next target. The other officer pointed out that holding onto a board that is being hit by multiple bullets would be difficult. One product promotional video shows a mannequin seated in a straight-back chair while the bullets strike the board. Would a standing petite female be able to absorb the impact without dropping the board?  The officer didn't think so.

School administrators have a responsibility to approach this frightening subject matter with clear-headed, unemotional thoughtfulness. Lives really do depend on their decisions and choices.  Administrators need educating when it comes to safety. They must communicate with law enforcement experts who can help them prepare an appropriate plan and put that plan into action.

In other words, are bulletproof white boards saying what the university really wants to say?

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