Student safe room: How one company is making America's classrooms bulletproof

It was devastating to watch, but all too familiar: Students run into bulletproof classroom shelter17 students ...

Posted: Apr 28, 2018 12:49 PM
Updated: Apr 28, 2018 12:49 PM

It was devastating to watch, but all too familiar: Students run into bulletproof classroom shelter

17 students and staff were shot and killed at a Florida high school in February; a scene America is getting used to, but never wants to see, especially close to home.

"It's not something I envisioned worrying about as much as I do now," said Richelle Jones, a mother of two in Virginia Beach.

Jones' daughter Alyssa attends Brickell Academy and her 5-year-old son will be in kindergarten next school year. The climate, Richelle admits, is much different than when she grew up.

"You take your daughter, your child to the bus stop and you have to worry about if they're going to be safe the entire day," she said.

In Jones' opinion, arming willing and qualified teachers is the best solution in keeping schools safe.

Of course, not everyone will agree with that approach, but while that debate raged following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a video showing students running into a classroom shelter racked up millions of views on Facebook.

"Shelter-In-Place is a bulletproof, storm-proof shelter that goes inside classrooms and any other common areas in the school. It's designed to be 30 seconds or less away from any student," said Casey Elliott, Vice President of Sales for Shelter-in-Place. "It's made from hardened ballistic steel."

There's also a camera that lets those inside know when the outside threat has passed.

Elliott told News 3 the idea for the Utah-based company came from tragedy a little more than five years ago.

"Sandy Hook happened in December of 2012 and less than six months later, a tornado hit Plaza Towers Elementary School in Oklahoma," said Elliott. "[Shelter-In-Place] founder, Jim Haslem, was sitting there watching the news [and] he thought there's gotta be something better to do to protect kids in schools."

A bulletproof shelter is what Haslem came up with. He even tested the shelter himself; sitting inside while AK-47s fired at it.

"It barely makes a dent," said Elliott. "These things are built to be tanks."

According to Elliott, schools are starting to catch on.

"We're in two districts in Oklahoma. Those are both kind of our pilot districts," he said. "We've received over 2,000 requests from our website alone. I believe I've seen a few from Virginia."

As Virginia Beach Public Schools set out to review security, Superintendent Aaron Spence says a number of options are on the table.

Yes, he's heard of Shelter-In-Place... and he has some concerns.

"I've looked at that device. I think I would ask some questions about how it helps or impedes the learning environment," Spence told News 3. "Also, the cost of that across 5,000 classrooms and how is that going to impact our ability to do other things."

When it comes to the learning environment, Elliott says the shelters are designed to look innocent and be used in educational ways. They're made to have carpet and benches inside. On the outside, they can be dressed like a tiki hut or a fort or have the school colors, he said.

As for the cost...

"It averages out to be between elementary, high school and middle school about $1,000 per person," said Elliott.

If you take the average class size in Virginia Beach into consideration that would be at least $20,000 each. If you put one in every classroom in the district, it would cost $100 million.

"One thing we tell schools is, even though it is a larger upfront investment, it will last forever," said Elliott. "We're also working with government to come up with some ways to sort of help pay for this."

In the end, the company says their goal is to get the shelters into as many classrooms as possible. Yes, there is money involved, but lives too, Elliott is quick to point out.

"I think this is the one solution with all the gun debates and everything...you can't argue with it."

For right now, it's not something being seriously considered by local schools we reached out to...but in the future?

"If our panel tells us that's the best possible solution to making our schools safe, then that's something we'd certainly have to consider," said Spence.

"If they're going to invest the money into it, I think a metal detector would be far more practical than building a bunker in a classroom," said Jones. "The one place I think it could be extremely practical would maybe be the cafeteria."

Either way, it's hard to argue with bulletproof.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 751826

Reported Deaths: 13811
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033581790
Lake557861011
Allen41721692
St. Joseph37001565
Hamilton36612417
Elkhart29416461
Tippecanoe22926227
Vanderburgh22559400
Porter19364326
Johnson18481389
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Warrick7862156
Floyd7814180
Grant7246179
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Boone6976103
Morgan6764141
Dubois6222118
Marshall6211116
Cass6023110
Henry5903110
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Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246236
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Starke228058
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Fulton203443
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Martin91815
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Switzerland8158
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0424

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1109374

Reported Deaths: 20213
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1288561469
Cuyahoga1158492216
Hamilton814161251
Montgomery525741049
Summit484431006
Lucas43380824
Butler39066606
Stark33348930
Lorain25690506
Warren24607305
Mahoning22383602
Lake21216389
Clermont20133253
Delaware18873136
Licking16668225
Fairfield16582204
Trumbull16559483
Medina15615273
Greene15289248
Clark14240306
Wood13296200
Portage13251216
Allen11916239
Richland11610211
Miami10857225
Wayne9147225
Columbiana9038230
Muskingum8908135
Pickaway8663122
Tuscarawas8654251
Marion8646139
Erie8058165
Ashtabula7171179
Hancock6998133
Ross6946163
Geauga6843151
Scioto6536106
Belmont6159174
Union584849
Lawrence5739102
Jefferson5681159
Huron5550122
Sandusky5444126
Darke5420129
Seneca5350128
Washington5323109
Athens524360
Auglaize502287
Mercer487585
Shelby477095
Knox4573112
Madison444566
Ashland435897
Putnam4335104
Defiance432399
Fulton432174
Crawford4045110
Brown402561
Logan387678
Preble3858105
Clinton379166
Ottawa373581
Highland359966
Williams348478
Champaign344959
Guernsey325254
Jackson318354
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285550
Hardin275565
Henry273667
Holmes2703101
Coshocton269260
Van Wert247264
Adams243256
Pike242835
Gallia240850
Wyandot234756
Hocking220663
Carroll197448
Paulding176642
Meigs148540
Monroe136345
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan110024
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
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