A number of anxiety-inducing safety upgrades have been introduced to classrooms in recent years due to the unprecedented rise in school shootings gripping the nation.
In the absence of any effective gun violence legislation, teachers and parents alike, are now trying to stop the bloodshed and ensure the safety of students and staff.
Bullet-proof backpacks, emergency whiteboard saferooms and auto-lock doors are among the measures being introduced in the classroom.
Millions are set to be spent on kitting out the classroom and has shed a grim light on the reality faced by American students and educators with 53 campus shootings recorded already in 2023 alone, according to CNN.
A number of anti-school-shooter gadgets and measures have been introduced to America’s classrooms, including bulletproof backpacks and whiteboard saferooms
Briana Takhtani, a seventh-grade teacher in New Jersey, admitted she has come to accept ‘the fact that I might die in my classroom,’ feeling that ‘school was a good place to be a kid, and it just feels like that’s kind of changing.’
A lack of concrete action has led to the morbid invention of the bulletproof back pack a telling sign that school’s are becoming more like a war zone.
The bullet proof material is usually made out of polyethylene fiber, a thin, flexible material that has the ability to stop a gunman’s fire.
As school shootings increase – with over 300 reported since 2018 – several backpack manufacturers have taken to offering slug-stopping options.
Guard Dog Security, a self-protection company, is among those to see a surge in sales from alarmed parents desperately trying to keep their children safe.
‘After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, we started getting some inquiries about school safety products,’ the company’s president Yasir Sheikh told CNN.
‘Parents are looking for some sort of solution for their children.’
In 2019, bulletproof Kevlar-covered backpacks hit the market from Israeli company ArmorMe
The backpacks were created entirely with preventing school shooting massacres in mind
As anxiety-stricken families will tell you, hoping a backpack would stop a hail of bullets is hardly comforting.
For those looking to step up in-classroom protection, one of the latest innovations has been trialed in Alabama – whiteboard saferooms.
The technology, which can also be useful in the event of a natural disaster, sees standard whiteboards transformed into a pop-out bulletproof shelter.
Two classrooms in Cullman City, Alabama were the first to roll out the gadgets in March, which cost the school district around $120,000 to install.
Despite the hefty price tag, Cullman City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kalhoff said at the time that they could ‘make a difference between life or death in the unimaginable school shooter situation.’
Alongside the ‘saferooms,’ the mass of school shootings has also led to 43 percent of public schools in the US to install a ‘panic button’ that triggers a silent alarm, according to data released by the National Center for Education Statistics in January 2023, cited by the New York Times.
The alarming data from the National Center for Education Statistics also found that a third of US public schools hold shooting evacuation drills at least nine times a year.
This crisis has also led to a less high-tech, more-cost-effective tactic, as door window covers emerge to limit access to school shooters.
Accessibility and an understanding of the school’s safety measures can be central to a gunman’s ability to wreak havoc.
By covering windows, a school shooter is instantly confronted with not knowing if a classroom is empty or full.
The emergence of door window covers as a tactic is often also seen in school shooter drills, where classrooms practice the terror of a shooting by sitting in the dark in silence.
‘They had us cover any windows that would be exposed in the classroom,’ said Melissa Parrish, a first-grade teacher in Los Angeles who told CNN her school conducted a drill the day after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas in May 2022.
‘We just turned off the lights and just sat silently… A lot of them were very scared. And I didn’t feel comfortable saying, ‘Well, this will never happen here’ because you just don’t know.’
Window covers are a common way schools have attempted to halt the access and understanding of a school shooter if they make it inside
The shooting in Uvalde sparked outrage as the local police waited over an hour before gunman Salvador Ramos was shot dead, only after he gunned down 19 students and two teachers.
While the cops understandably came under intense scrutiny, the excruciating wait also led to questions over whether the students and teachers had any other recourse.
For classrooms on lower floors, windows that transform into emergency-exits have also been installed onto campuses – including the site of a horror 2017 school shooting.
At West Liberty-Salem High School in Ohio, 17-year-old Ely Serna opened fire and injured two students, leading to mass-panic across the campus as around 400 students evacuated.
Many fled through classroom windows, with West Liberty-Salem Local School District Superintendent Kraig Hissong saying they ‘just kicked out or broke out those windows.’
The school reportedly installed emergency exit windows that open from the inside – while also ensuring they are bullet proof to prevent a gunman firing their way in from the other side.
‘It won’t keep [the shooter] out forever, but two minutes allows the police or first responders to be able to get there,’ added Hissong.
Law enforcement descends on the scene of West Liberty-Salem High School in Ohio, 2017, after a student opened fire on classmates
Auto-locking doors are installed in classrooms across the nation, with the failure of the tech in Uvalde, Texas in May 2022 partly blamed for one recent school shooting
Another critical issue that led the Uvalde massacre to be widely condemned was the failure of auto-lock doors to stop Ramos gaining access to the building.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw testified before the state legislature in June 2022 that the shooting was an ‘abject failure,’ which was partly down to faulty locks.
He said that neither the exterior nor in-classroom doors were able to be locked from the inside, allowing the gunman to ‘walk straight through’ and enter the room.
In part due to the horrific shooting, halting a gunman’s access to a school has taken on increased importance, which has seen auto-locking doors take effect across the nation.
While propping open classroom doors is the norm in many European schools, the risk of a sudden school shooting has led US campuses to install instant-locks.
The gadgets have also complicated the process of entering a campus, where swipe key cards are becoming a regular occurrence, to ensure only students, teachers and visitors can enter.
But while the slew of security tech and extreme measures are becoming the norm, educators and parents are left wondering how the situation has become so dire.
‘I’m already a babysitter, a mother, a mental health counselor,’ said Tahktani. ‘I don’t want to be a police officer.’