It doesn’t much matter to me what side of the political aisle anyone fervently digs their heels into; the fact that our school-aged kids are watching helplessly as their schools turn into bloody battlegrounds is shameful beyond words. Mass shootings are filling the airwaves with horrifying images of young lives cut short by the cruelty of those with hate in their hearts.
That’s why I’m seriously considering buying a bulletproof backpack for my children this school year. While I may quietly think to myself that massive shootings like Parkland, Florida or Newtown, Connecticut may seem a world away and that they couldn’t possibly happen in my community, the reality is that many of the parents who lost children in school shootings probably thought the same thing.
On the other hand, no one solution seems to be enough especially when it comes to how we prepare our kids. Take the clear backpacks, for example.
After the Parkland, Florida school shooting in which seventeen students and staff members died and seventeen others were injured, school officials made clear backpacks mandatory. The idea, although noble, was flawed. It turned out that girls were being unfairly targeted with ridicule for carrying tampons. Some students pointed out the statistically zero chance of further threat to their school, and others were outraged that more than 3,000 backpacks were donated to the Parkland students when they could have been donated to underprivileged kids in underfunded school districts.
Other parents have tried to equip their kids with phones programmed with emergency numbers so that their kids can immediately text their parents while in hiding during an active shooting. Some parents have begun keeping rubber door stoppers in their kids’ backpacks to jam classroom doors to keep out shooters. And others have begun pulling kids from school altogether in favor of homeschooling.
There don’t seem to be any answers that make a ton of sense outside of addressing our deeply rooted problem with guns in this country. But as a mom shopping for school supplies and being faced with the threat of violence and the option to buy a bulletproof backpack (which seems like an insane thing to want to do) I’m leaning toward safety and wondering just how safe these bags really are.
First of all, my kids don’t carry their bags around the school with them all day. They hang them up on hooks outside of their classrooms. How is a bulletproof bag going to help if a shooter gains access to their rooms? Secondly, not all bulletproof bags take the same punch. In a riveting article posted by the TODAY Show, pointed out that the biggest selling bulletproof backpacks on the market don’t even measure up to the kinds of weaponry being used in school shootings.
“While there are other brands out there, very few meet the minimum performance requirements set forth by the National Institute of Justice,” the TODAY show stated. “Both brands are ranked at “Level IIIA,” which means that the backpacks can stop bullets from a 9-millimeter handgun and a .44 Magnum. However, in several recent school shootings, different weapons — which are more powerful than the bullets the backpacks have been tested against — have been used.”
As a mom of three kids, my number one concern is always safety. While I don’t know the right way to respond to this era of school shootings, I do know that there are a few reasonable things that I can do immediately to at least get a transparent idea of how safe my children really are in school. By talking to my kids about school shootings, being in the know about how our school conducts lockdown drills, and asking them about school security, I do feel a little bit better. But it’s not enough.
I’m still on the fence about whether or not to purchase bulletproof backpacks. I did, however, add rubber door stoppers to their school supply list and I’m seriously considering purchasing flip phones that I can program with our family contacts. Just in case.