"I never thought I'd need this." That's what one Pennsylvania middle-schooler told WTXF after receiving an unusual graduation gift Monday. The eighth-grade class of St. Cornelius in Chadds Ford was given ballistic shields that slide into backpacks as protection from bullets, per the New York Times. Fifteen students and 25 staff members received a $150 SafeShield developed by Unequal Technologies, whose CEO is the dad of one of the school's eighth-graders. Made of a Kevlar composite that CEO Robert Vito says can stop bullets from handguns and shotguns (but not AR-15s), as well as penetration from stabbing, the "kid-friendly" plate can slide into a child's backpack. "These are the times we live in," a company exec tells USA Today. "We just hope a kid never has to use [one]."
Not everyone agrees this backpack protector is the answer. "I think it creates a false sense of security for the student and the school itself," Curtis Lavarello, executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council, tells the Times. But Vito says the shield is just one facet of overall student safety, adding that "sadly, this is the sign of the times." Indeed, though WTXF notes the chances of a shooter attacking the school are "microscopic," it points out that St. Cornelius' tough security measures include double deadbolt locks on classroom doors and a criminal-records search of all visitors to the school. "It is their life now, which is very sad," Principal Barbara Rosini says. "But if it is something that will help keep our kids ... safe, that is unfortunately where we are now." (It's not the first school to try this.)