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PITTSBURGH — Add it to the back-to-school shopping list: bulletproof backpacks.
Throw in a bulletproof whiteboard and a bulletproof desktop calendar too.
That’s the pitch from Cleveland-based Impact Armor Technologies LLC, one of a few companies in the United States marketing safety gear once reserved for police officers and soldiers to teachers and schoolchildren.
Demand, said Rob Slattery of Impact Armor, is up.
“It’s really, really growing by leaps and bounds,” he said by phone this week from Cleveland, where he had just finished outfitting a kindergartner for a bulletproof backpack.
The reason, he believes, is that “people have finally opened their eyes that bad things happen.”
The company, founded in 2006 to create technology to protect against blast threats and bullets for military applications, created a line of protective devices in response to gun violence in school, and Mr. Slattery said the December shootings in Newtown, Conn., in which a gunmen killed 20 children and six adults inside an elementary school, brought increased attention to their protective gear.
Impact Armor, he said, can transform a regular backpack into a bulletproof one by adding lightweight, woven Kevlar inserts that add about a pound to the overall weight and cost from $100 to $110. The company says the inserts can stop a bullet fired point-blank, from a 9mm to a 44-caliber Magnum.
“This is just a product that you can purchase to help yourself be a harder target,” said Mr. Slattery, a former police officer. He said his two children, ages 25 and 15, both wear the protective backpacks.
Parents of school-aged children are not the only ones interested, he said. Recently, his company has been getting calls from attorneys looking for bulletproof inserts for their briefcases or leather binders.
The National Retail Federation, which compiles a survey of back-to-school trends, did not include data about whether school safety devices, such as the bulletproof backpack or calendar, were making it onto parent must-buy lists.
Indeed, some say the backpacks, intended to evoke a feeling of safety, may end up having the opposite effect.
A bulletproof backpack — or whiteboard or similar item — is “not at all” practical, said Ken Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services, a school safety consulting firm based in Cleveland.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Kaitlynn Riely is a reporter at the Post-Gazette. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707.