Our kids deserve better

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It looks like the recent rash of school shootings have spurred a new industry: bullet-resistant school gear.

Since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. there have been at least 74 school shootings in America, according to gun safety organization Everytown. Three Iowa incidents make the list: Iowa Western Community College (Council Bluffs, April 26), North High School (Des Moines, January 31) and Algona Public Schools (Algona, Nov. 1, 2013).

Since there does not appear to be the political will to craft policy that could stem the violence, American’s entrepreneurial spirit is moving forward to fill and armor any gaps.

Maryland-based Hardwire Armor Systems will ship any teacher or office worker a bulletproof peel-n-stick door, provided they agree to the $2,300 price tag and shipping costs. Its features include single person installation and its dual-purpose as a whiteboard. “Blends well with classroom,” notes the advertisement, “no psychological impact on students.”

If that cost is too steep, never fear because the company also offers a $1,000 plus shipping handheld whiteboard option, a $129 plus shipping clipboard option and a $119 plus shipping backpack insert option. The latter being available in your choice of white, pink, blue, green yellow and purple.

An Oklahoma company, ProTecht, has developed a product for schools that want each student to have individualized armor: the Bodyguard Blanket.

They look a little like the nap mats parents used to send to school with kindergartners and preschoolers, and they come in various sizes. Children using the bullet-resistant mat should ball up on the floor and place the mat on top of their bodies. According to the manufacturer, the blankets are also useful during natural disasters like tornadoes, and can even be worn like a backpack. Each blanket will set your school back about $1,000.

While I’m a firm believer in “safety first,” this all seems just a bit over the top.

Parents today — just like parents forever — are determined to keep their children as safe as possible. Back in my day, this translated to my mom packing a healthy school lunch or making sure my zipper pocket contained quarters for the pay phone. While there might have been a few times she was tempted to outfit me in Bubble Wrap — especially that time when I flew off the handlebars of my brother’s bike and face-planted in the gravel — she never actually did it.

But now parents are purchasing bulletproof uniforms and demanding school districts install classroom shields in some misguided attempt to circumvent tragedy. Some politicians, national and local, have advocated for armed security guards or off-duty law enforcement officers to be stationed in our schools.

Rather than deal with the real problems that have led to school shootings — ineffective gun regulation, a lack of behavioral health care services, a culture of entitlement — we’d rather put our energies toward a placebo. The end result is no better than leaving the stinking trash in our house and spraying a bit of freshener.

l Comments: (319) 339-3144 or @LyndaIowa or lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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