Schoolchildren May Soon Wear Bulletproof Military-Style Vests

Photo: The Denver Post

Post-Newtown, sales for bulletproof backpacks and whiteboards have soared as parents and school districts seek to take children’s safety into their own hands. The reaction is along the lines of what the National Rifle Association has promoted for months: that armed guards, and not gun regulation, is the answer to school shootings. Congress responded to parents’ concern by caving to pressure from the NRA and blocking the only serious federal attempt to pass gun safety legislation earlier this month.

But if armed educators, bulletproof school supplies, and metal protectors weren’t enough, a company that offers ballistic safety equipment is marketing military-style vests for schoolchildren:

The Denver company that supplied Jaliyah’s rucksack, Elite Sterling Security, has sold over 300 in the last two months and received inquiries from some 2,000 families across the US. It is also in discussion with more than a dozen 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.

School districts in Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and California are already stocking up on bulletproof supplies, and one school in Maryland has amassed 80 ballistic shields in its classrooms. None of this equipment comes cheap, and the backpacks are only meant to stop a bullet from a handgun, not assault weapons like the one used in Newtown. A 2006 study of school shootings also raises questions of whether security measures like metal detectors are even effective.

Psychiatrists warn that militarizing schools could cause long-term harm to children. “This is serving to increase their fear and their suspicion of their peers,’’ a psychiatry director told the Associated Press.