Bulletproof bulletin boards: New tool for some schools fighting gun violence

Some schools are using bulletin boards designed to withstand bullets as one tool in the fight against gun violence.
CBS Minnesota

(CBS) MINNEAPOLIS - A central Minnesota school district is installing a new line of defense against the possibility of gunfire: bulletproof bulletin boards.

According to CBS Minnesota, the Rocori School District., where two students were killed in a 2003 shooting, plans to equip each classroom and some common areas with whiteboards made out of Dyneema, a material the manufacturer says is 2-and-half times stronger than that used in police-issue bulletproof vests.

The boards can hang on a classroom wall like any other marker board, but in event of a shooting, a teacher could use it as a shield, the station reported.

"We are one of the handful of schools in the nation that knows what's it like to put kids in lockdown for real. We heard loudly what that did to those students," Cold Spring Police Chief Phil Jones told The Associated Press on Monday. "This is the best development in school safety I've ever seen in my life."

CBS Minnesota reports that the manufacturer, Maryland-based Hardwire LLC, has been working on armor protection devices for military vehicles and personnel for years. But after the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting in December that killed 20 children and six educators, the company decided to expand to school security.

The whiteboards are 18 inches by 20 inches, weigh less than 4 pounds, have handles on the back, and are said to absorb rounds from handguns or shotguns without ricochet, according to Hardwire's website. Company officials said the whiteboards are already in schools in North Dakota and Maryland, and are being rolled out in Pennsylvania and California districts. Jones said Rocori schools are the first to use them in Minnesota, the station reported.

At least one security expert questioned whether the boards would be effective. Bill Nesbitt, president of school security consulting firm Security Management Services International, wasn't familiar with the whiteboards but said his initial reaction was that they may provide a false sense of security. The prudent thing to do would be to retreat from danger rather than hide behind a whiteboard, he said, according to CBS Minnesota.

Per the station, Police Chief Jones and Scott Staska, the Rocori superintendent, noted that the boards only supplement their larger security plan, which includes lockdown drills, school resource officers and a single point of entry.

Staska said many teachers see it as an extra layer of defense, but he noted that school security is a sensitive issue. Staska said he had some initial reservations, mostly because he didn't want to acknowledge that such security is necessary.

"Hopefully the board will hang on the wall for 50 years and never have to be used as anything but a marker board," Staska said. "If you don't have it, you have a classroom with no protection. With it, you at least have an opportunity to have some protection."

In 2003, a 15-year-old boy brought a gun to Rocori High School and fatally shot 14-year-old Seth Bartell and 17-year-old Aaron Rollins. The gunman, who is serving a life sentence, was convinced by a teacher to put the gun down.