After the shooting, Jones read all the reports, went to lectures and talked to experts searching for a solution. “The problem is that no one has come up with a viable solution,” he explains. “I’ve heard President Bush talk about it and President Obama talk about it, but no one is coming up with a solution.” Then Jones heard about Hardwire’s product. “It was too good to believe so I had to have one,” he explains. “I had to feel it, weigh it and write on it. I had to shoot the hell out of it. I shot it full of 9 millimeters and 40 calibers. I went up to a 44 magnum super mag. I couldn’t penetrate this thing.” Now Jones is on a crusade to get whiteboards everywhere in the schools. “I want one in every classroom. I want every cook to have it. I want every janitor to have one. This product is unbelievable. It’s amazing.”
These solutions impact school safety for a number of reasons. Two main aspects are they add layers and can be implemented immediately.
Like an onion (or a parfait)
Adding police officers to the school and giving ballistic whiteboards to teachers adds layers to school safety. “Layers of defense are a tried and true method,” says Tunis. “Working with the Army, we’ve learned to work with the people out, not the perimeter in.” First you need to protect the inside then work out to doors, security cameras and reaching into the community to change things. “We’re not asking you to become Captain America and run into the hallway,” Tunis explains. “It’s the last line of defense and the ability to buy time for first responders.” Equip, empower and get back to educating, he says.
Another aspect to layering protection comes from the law enforcement standpoint. Officers have told Tunis, “We don’t want to see more guns as we come in. It’s hard enough to know who the bad guy is.” The teachers and students are trained in positioning themselves for optimum protection. “Five teachers and five shields coming down the hallway with students behind them, and five more teachers and five shields behind them would be very formidable,” states Tunis.
“We do feel law enforcement support is very important for this idea to grow,” Tunis explains. “Since Sandy Hook, the gun control debates are going on and it will take a long time to implement any solutions. We have to buy law enforcement time, and adding these layers of defense will buy the teachers and students time to survive. It gives them a fighting chance. It gives the officers a safer environment to respond to. It’s about getting those kids safe and giving those first responders a corridor of safety.” Currently Hardwire has whiteboards in or going into schools throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and Maryland.
Officer Chandler first brought the idea of working out of the school to the School Improvement Council (SIC) which is made up of parents, administrators and other leaders. While the community considered the idea, Chief Moore needed to get permissions as well. “Because it didn’t require any structural changes or additional pay, all I really needed to do was let [the city administrator] know what was going on and get his ideas as well.” Chief Malz agreed putting officers in the school was an immediate solution that made sense in his community. “I simply believed we needed to take it upon ourselves to find out what was right for our community,” he explained.
Hardwire’s whiteboards are another immediate solution. “One of the keys to any solution is it has to be immediate,” explains Tunis. “From the first time I heard about IEDs over in Iraq, it was almost a year before we offered solutions. A lot of guys got killed in that year.”
Although the small and medium whiteboards are readily available, some schools want something a little different like in Wicomico County (Maryland). “We started talking about the ballistic boards and also how we could expand on them, using them on doors and creating walls in areas that don’t have walls,” explains Andy Turner, Coordinator for Safe Schools, Wicomico County Board of Education. “We have elementary schools that have a 1970s open-space model. When we talk about our lock-down drills in those areas our kids have nowhere to hide. No way to defend themselves. What we’re designing with Hardwire will make us less vulnerable on the inside.”
Making it happen
Although very few concerns have been expressed, funding is always a factor. Wicomico’s whiteboards and Hardwire structural improvements will be funded in a variety of ways, including a $25,000 donation, Safe Schools money designated through the governor’s office and the general fund.