A recent Huffington Post article highlighted the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s purchase of bulletproof whiteboards that are now on the market.
According to the article, the University will spend $60,000 on 200 of the whiteboards, and it is the first college to do so. Numerous lower-level schools already possess these devices, which began to be manufactured as a proactive response to the Sandy Hook shootings last year, and they are sold for $299 each, before shipping and handling. The boards come in pink, blue, white, or green, are 18 by 20 inches in size, and are equipped with 3 handles on the back, as well as a convenient hook.
The original article about the university purchase of the whiteboards from The Baltimore Sun stated, “The high-tech tablet…can be used as a personal shield for professors under attack, according to the company that makes it, and a portable writing pad in quieter times.”
George Tunis, the founder of Hardwire, the company who creates the boards and who also makes protective armor for the military, said he “envisions teachers using the whiteboards to fend off attackers individually or as a group, standing side-by-side to create a wall that could shield evacuating students or to fend off an attacker, [and that] ‘it’s designed to be a last resort and to buy you some extra time.’”
Juliette B. Bell, president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, ultimately said that her choice for purchasing the white boards for the university stemmed from the inspiration of wanting to be “proactive rather than reactive” in dangerous incidences that have increasingly happened in schools.
While I wholeheartedly understand and sympathize with the increase of awareness and need for safety in schools, I’m not really sure if these little boards would be able to do that much in a violent situation. The tragic school and public location shootings that have occurred in this country, have at most, been utterly unpredictable; unpredictable, and fast-paced. It seems slightly impractical for a teacher to carry these boards around with them at all times as a form of preparation, especially since the timing of these instances is outside of human prediction. No one knows when the “quieter times” will be disrupted. If an attacker ensues, you may not have enough time to fulfill the vision that Tunis holds, as stated above, and if you try, what’s to say that an attacker wouldn’t forcefully get the board out of your hands, or shoot you somewhere else so you drop the board. Then, you’re in the same position you would be in if you didn’t have the $300 product. In these situations, you want to do all that you possibly can to keep those around you safe, and these whiteboards are intended to be a possible roadblock. But, a small “shield” wouldn’t be able to cause much distraction during the undeniable, logical realities of an actual violent situation.
I fully understand the sensitivity and seriousness of the issues revolving around the intention of this product, and I realize it’s stepping into controversial territory. But, disagreeing with or being unsure of the product’s effectiveness is not the same thing as disagreeing with the importance and absolute need for an increase in school safety. Yes, the boards literally have the capability of stopping a bullet, but a gun holds more than one bullet, and in the totality of an intense, fast-paced, violent situation, a small board may not be the most effective form of defense.
What is the most effective form of defense?
No one really knows. The nature of the events is too unpredictable for there to be one right answer.