News & Politics

Welcome to America: Children Forced to Wear Bulletproof Backpacks, Companies Sell Shields Disguised as Whiteboards

Bulletproof backpacks, ballistic safety vests and ballistic shields disguised as whiteboards are cropping up in schools around the country.

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Welcome to post-Newtown America: where gun control legislation can’t be passed but companies are profiting by selling bulletproof backpacks for children in schools. The backpacks, along with ballistic safety vests and ballistic shields disguised as whiteboards in classrooms, are among the products companies are pushing in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre.

The Guardian reports that a Denver-based company, Elite Sterling Security, has sold 300 bulletproof backpacks over the last two months. The company has also received inquiries about their backpacks from 2,000 families across the U.S. And the company is in talks with schools in Colorado about “equipping them with ballistic safety vests, a scaled-down version of military uniforms designed to hang in classroom cupboards for children to wear in an emergency,” The Guardian reports.

“If you put it on her back, it almost covers her whole body,” one Colorado parent whose child wears a bulletproof backpack explained to the British newspaper. “It was a very hard conversation to have but she knows that it's something that will keep her safe."

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There are also ballistic shields that look like whiteboards in classrooms. Schools in North Dakota, Pennsylvania and California have bought them.

Scott Staska, a superintendent of schools in Minnesota, said the ballistic shields are important for safety. “We have door locks, safety cameras, and emergency procedures all designed to assist with an emergency situation and we see the marker boards as one additional tool to help in the process,” he said.

So while these places may not be taking the National Rifle Association up on its suggestion to put armed guards in schools, they’re coming very close to it. In post-Newtown America, schools are becoming places where seeing bulletproof vests, backpacks and shields is normal. But as Think Progress notes, psychiatrists have warned "that militarizing schools could cause long-term harm to children."

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.