What are your thoughts about bullet proof shields for backpacks?

3 October 2022



I'm wondering if you're starting to hear schools (parents) talk about bulletproof back packs? We have a parent who wants their kindergartener to keep his back pack with him at all times because it has a bulletproof shield in it. We have practices in place to keep backpacks out of classrooms because of concerns about what might be inside the back pack. This request is at odds with that practice. But maybe it's the wave of the future to protect kids?

Just wondering your thoughts.


This is a really interesting question. Had you asked if I thought that you should as a school district use or require bullet proof shields in backpacks for students, I would without hesitation, recommend not to do so.

I would tell you…

“No, don’t do it. Focus on those things that we know deliver tremendous benefits such as locking every door, teachers being able to lockdown in 7 seconds, having an effective threat assessment team, everyone engaging 100% during morning arrival, teachers being able to spot negative and dangerous student trajectories, and every student enjoying a meaningful relationship with an adult in the building. Do these things first. Perfect these things first and then consider other options.”

However, because a parent is asking on behalf of their child that alone makes this difficult to answer.

Every person has a right to protect themselves. Every parent has a right to protect their child. Stopping a parent from doing what they believe will help their child to enhance their personal protection just feels terrible. It’s their child—their prized treasure. They should have a say in what happens to them as long as it is not so out of the norm or so against established procedures that it proves to be a detriment to others or their child.

I don’t personally believe that having a bullet proof shield in a backpack is the best solution. Absolutely nothing is better than having a prepared teacher who keeps their door locked and who can lockdown in 7 seconds or less. This is the key to preventing violence and saving lives—locking the threat out of the classroom. To do so is nearly a 100% guarantee that the threat will not enter the classroom therefore rendering the question of a bullet proof shield immaterial.

It is true that a bullet proof shield is an additional safety layer so it will provide a little more protection. However, kindergarten students don’t transition to other classes therefore they don’t need a backpack throughout the day. Whatever good that is gained from it is greatly diminished because they don’t wear it. They probably wear it to school, hang it up, and then don’t take it down again until dismissal.

With all of this in mind, here’s my recommendation if I were the one who had to decide.

  1. First, I would praise the parent for being committed to their child’s safety. Good for them…
  2. I would explain to parents what we know about the threat, what we’re doing to make the building safer, and how lockdowns are the best drill for protecting lives.
  3. I would allow their request but with the following conditions.

    >> The backpack can be carried/worn while their child is out of the classroom but not inside the classroom.

    >> The backpack has to be hung up with the other backpacks.

    >> During a lockdown the child can retrieve their backpack as long as it does not have them moving in front of or too close to the classroom door.

    >> The request is granted on a temporary basis until we have a chance to assess how it’s working.

  4. There must be consent to look inside the backpack. While it is highly improbable that a kindergarten student will carry something illegal or dangerous—it has happened. Since the student will be allowed to walk around with a backpack, the parent therefore must understand and agree to a simple and quick search of the backpack whenever necessary.
  5. In two weeks I would meet again with the parents, teacher, and principal to discuss the situation. Namely, is it working? Is it not working? Is it disrupting the school day? If all is well at that time then I would allow it to continue but only with the clear understanding that all stakeholders have a right to revisit it should it ever produce more bad than good.

This idea or concept of bullet proof shields in school has been around for a quite a bit. There are also bullet proof clipboards, bullet proof shields for desks, and bullet proof chair coverings that can be pulled off and worn as a vest. While these provide a layer of safety, I don’t think they will ever be accepted or implemented on a large scale. They’re too far out of the comfort zone for most school personnel, parents, and kids.

If the student in this situation was older, I don’t think I’d grant the request. If you choose not to, you would be well inside your authority and declining it would not reflect poorly on you in any way. I don’t think there is a necessity to approve this request.

However, the age of this student is a significant factor. Also, the fact that the parent is trying to enhance their child’s personal safety means a lot to me. Furthermore, I believe that if it is allowed that it will have minimal impact on the school day. Therefore, I would grant this request as long as the conditions are agreed to and it doesn’t hinder academic success.

I hope this helps!

If you have any questions or would like me to clarify a point, just let me know how I can help!


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