As the nation debates school safety in the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, two jurisdictions and one company were not satisfied to sit around and wait for an answer. Both elementary schools in Simpsonville, South Carolina and in Jordan, Minnesota, the elementary, middle and high school have moved officers inside. Several other schools have put ballistic whiteboards in the hands of their facility. All of these solutions are designed to put measures in place right now to help protect the nation’s schoolchildren.
Not an SRO
“After the shooting in Sandy Hook, we started trying to think of a way to improve security for the elementary schools, because people were concerned,” explains Chief Steve Moore, Simpsonville Police Department. First, the department added extra patrols, but that wasn’t enough. Now located inside the elementary schools, Officer Justin Chandler and Robert Parker are not primary responders. Chandler handles a lot of clerical work, statistics and reports. Due to this, all he needed to work out of Plain Elementary was a desk and wireless Internet. Parker is the department’s property and evidence tech. He attends more meetings at the police department but while not there, he works from Simpsonville Elementary School.
Jordan Police Department went a step further making some structural changes to give the officers offices, including the chief who has an office with a very large picture window looking out at the entrance, giving him eyes on everyone coming and going. Once some computer issues are worked out, Chief Bob Malz anticipates being fully ready at the school by the time spring break ends.
Bulletproof teaching tools
Another aspect of school safety came in the form of a teaching tool. Hardwire LLC manufactures ballistic equipment for the military and law enforcement and saw a need to bring safety tools into the classroom. “I heard about Sandy Hook after a business trip,” explains CEO George Tunis. He was sitting with his 12-year old son watching the footage two or three days later. “It was so striking,” he explains. “I remember the image of one particular father. My son and I looked at each other and said, ‘We need to do something about this.’”
Tunis realized his company needed to come up with a product that would give the adults a fighting chance. First, he talked to other parents, and then partnered up with the headmaster at Worchester Preparatory School where his children attend. They brought the idea to the school security board. “They wanted to know when we could do it,” Tunis explains.
In three days, Tunis presented the school with lightweight, 18-inch by 20-inch bulletproof whiteboards that could absorb multiple magazines of ammunition from any handgun or shotgun without ricochet or injury. The 3.7-pound boards are light enough that even a small teacher could hold on to it. “It’s the same weight as a 9-millimeter Berretta. [The kick] is equivalent to a little leaguer throwing a 45-mph ball at you. It’s nothing.” As part of the training they offer, Hardwire uses a shock simulator. “We have the teachers hold the shield,” Tunis says. “It shows them they can do it easily. It’s not going to knock them down and spin them around three times.”
On September 24, 2003, Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minn. became another tragic statistic. Chief Phil Jones was one of the first on scene that day. “It had such a profound impact on me and our community,” he states. “Our schools and our churches are two places we consider sacred. We send our children off to school and assume they will be safe. That day, driving away from the scene, I realized that wasn’t the case. We needed to do something about that.”