The Bulletproof Classroom

   < < Go Back

By John Cloud,

from Bloomberg Businessweek,

This four-pound, $399 dry erase board can stop a shotgun blast from a foot away.

After the atrocity in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 six- and seven-year-olds and six adult staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary, legislators around the country grasped for ways to prevent another such disaster. Some proposed arming school guards; others moved to ban guns from being kept at school by anyone. Debates raged over spending on metal detectors, more surveillance, combat training for teachers, and blastproof locks on classroom doors. In the wake of every school shooting since the 1999 Columbine massacre, these discussions have been endless because the stakes are so high and the solutions so imperfect. Lock every door, and the gunman can still shoot through a window. Arm the principal with a gun, and the shooter might disarm her, kill her, and gain another weapon.

A businessman named George Tunis III read about Sandy Hook with horror. He has two kids—a 15-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy—and couldn’t imagine getting a call from their school that the worst had happened. Millions of parents have shared his fear, but Tunis is in a unique position to do something about it: He manufactures light armor designed to protect people from not only bullets, but also bombs.

Tunis came up with the idea of lining the handheld, portable whiteboards commonly used in schools with panels made from Dyneema, a polyethylene fiber strong enough to stop a shotgun blast from a foot away and light enough to wear all day. Emily Heinauer, director of special projects for Hardwire, says the company has sold its 20-by-18-inch whiteboards in all 50 states—some to school districts and some to individual teachers who find them online. In addition to the bulletproof whiteboards, Tunis makes a 10-by-13-inch clipboard weighing 1.3 pounds intended for kids to use if a gunman comes into the room. Hardwire recently sold 61 clipboards, which retail for $129, at half price to Worcester County, Md., where the company is based.

More From Bloomberg Businessweek: