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Are bulletproof whiteboards on your back-to-school list?

Posting in Design

International Armoring Corp. makes ballistic materials that can be applied to cars, windows, and walls. Their customers are businesspeople, celebrities, dignitaries, heads of state... and as of recently, educators worried about school shootings, Businessweek reports.

The company makes discreet and functional armored protection for use in elementary schools. To avoid making classrooms look like fortresses:

IAC designed special walls it calls Safeboards that can be used as whiteboards -- and can also withstand the firepower of handguns, automatic weapons, and nearly every shoulder-mounted weapon. When teachers hear an alarm or suspect trouble, they can slide the whiteboards over the doors to their classrooms.

Corner partitions made up of sliding walls (pictured) can be installed for more protection, buying time until authorities get there; each one can hold 37 kindergarteners. The sliding whiteboard starts at $1,850, and each corner partition costs about $5,800. For this new school year, six school districts have bought IAC’s ballistic classroom equipment.

Armor made for students and teachers are growing in popularity. In fact, an increasingly large industry has grown around marketing protective gear to schools, TIME reports.

  • Maryland-based Hardwire LLC -- better known for its military armor products -- sells 18-by-20 inch whiteboards for $300; over 100 schools in five states have purchased them. The small central Minnesota Rocori School District plans to spend upward of $25,000 for the protective devices from Hardwire, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore recently announced it would purchase 200 (the first university to do so).
  • Hardwire also sells bulletproof clipboards and a bulletproof insert that can be placed in a child’s backpack. For $1,499, they sell a bullet-stopping cover that can be affixed to a classroom door.
  • Elite Sterling Security also sells bulletproof backpack inserts. Other products in their line of “Children’s Items” includes a child-sized bulletproof vest and an insulated winter vest with bulletproof protection hidden inside.
  • Impact Armor Technologies, which makes similar items, says their products are just tools -- akin to the auto industry coming up with air bags. School products are now about 65 percent of their market.

Proponents say these products provide more than just a psychological fix, but critics need a lot more persuading, NPR reports:

"After every high-profile school shooting, we have an explosion of gadgets, gurus and charlatans," says school safety consultant Kenneth Trump, who is openly disdainful of the bulletproof items, but more so of training programs that advocate confrontation. "Corporations see dollar signs," he says, "and believe that schools have huge budgets to buy new products and services."

[Businessweek, NPR, TIME]

Image: Safeboard

— By on September 20, 2013, 6:12 AM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure