In the wake of last year’s shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, school districts across the country began searching for ways to keep students and teachers safe in the event of a mass shooting. Vlacia Campbell, Acting Superintendent of the Muhlenberg School District, knew that armed guards were out of the question however.
“We did not consider anything like armed guards or anything to that extent,” she said. “We don’t want people to be frightened. We don’t want something to be fearful for our children. We want to feel safe but we want to have a welcoming, inviting school.”
Muhlenberg Police Officers believe they have the perfect solution for the district. They’re called ballistic shields. Created by Hardwire LLC and first used by the military in Afghanistan, the shields line doors and walls and can also be used as an erasable writing board that teachers and students can hide behind.
“This has great potential to be a life saver in the threat of a school shooting,” said Muhlenberg Police Sergeant Joel Marino. “It’s something that allows a teacher to protect themselves and protect their children. But it also gives them a sense of security, that they can do something.”
Muhlenberg Township Police lieutenant Joe Schlappich says he was skeptical of the shields at first, but quickly came around once he saw them in action.
“I was very skeptical,” he said. “But they actually brought a piece that had been shot about five times. Seeing that was believing.”
What police are most impressed by are the ways in which the shields blend in with the classroom environment.
“It’s not something you’d have to tuck away in a closet somewhere and train them to remember to get it if something bad happens,” Schlappich said. “It’s right there, hanging on the wall.”
Muhlenberg School officials observed the shields during a shooting range demonstration.
“It was a new thought for us,” Campbell said.
A number of school districts have looked into purchasing the shields though they come with a substantial price tag. The president of Hardwire insists they’re cheaper than hiring an armed guard. He also says he’s currently trying to help school districts find grant money to help fund the costs. There are also several safe school grants available in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.