Children are getting ready to go back to school. By now, you’ve probably purchased school supplies – pencils…trapper keepers (did I just date myself…?) folders…notebooks…you get the idea.
But in recent years, a new school supply has been gaining popularity amongst parents – bulletproof backpack inserts. These specially designed ballistic inserts help provide an extra layer of protection, which may help give parents and their children a bit of peace of mind.
I am one of those parents. Several years ago, I made the decision to purchase a Level IIIA bulletproof backpack insert for my then 1st grader. Talking to my son about why he was suddenly carrying a bulletproof insert to school wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.
However, that’s only half the conversation that’s needed. The second half is talking to your child’s teacher.
Every school, and teacher for that matter, has different policies and procedures when it comes to storing and carrying backpacks throughout the day. In elementary school, many students either use in-classroom cubbies or hang their backpacks off the back of their desk chairs (my son has personally experienced both).
In middle and high school, students often carry their backpacks from classroom to classroom or utilize lockers. The accessibility of your child’s backpack throughout the day plays an important role in protecting your child in the event of an emergency.
The first step in talking to your child’s teacher about backpack insert body armor is doing just that - talking. Communication is key in every aspect of your child’s education, including their safety. Start by asking what the policy and procedure is in the event of a Code Red.
Keep in mind that there will be specific details they can’t talk about for security reasons, but having a general idea of what happens during a Code Red can help identify how your child’s bulletproof backpack can be appropriately integrated.
School shootings and your child’s safety is a sensitive and extremely emotional subject, so it is important to keep calm when communicating with your child’s teacher or school administrators. You’re not questioning the teacher’s ability to keep their students safe or making a political statement. You’re simply starting a conversation that likely will grow organically from there. Teachers are heavily invested in the safety of their students as well.
I recently had this very same conversation with my son’s new 3rd grade teacher. I am a very involved parent. I volunteer at school often and know most of the teachers. However, I had never met my son’s new 3rd grade teacher.
I decided to wait until our “meet the teacher” night. I did this for several reasons. First, not knowing my son’s teacher, I wanted to have this conversation in person rather than over a face-less email. As you probably know, the tone of an email can often be misinterpreted. I didn’t want to make the mistake of coming off as accusing my son’s teacher of not being able to properly keep him safe if the needed. Not a great way to start off a relationship.
Second, I wanted to get a feel for the physical layout of the classroom as that would definitely play into the conversation I was getting ready to have. For example - how far away is my son’s desk from where his backpack will hang? Does the teacher allow kids to keep their backpacks throughout the day?
"I wanted to get a feel for the physical layout of the classroom as that would definitely play into the conversation I was getting ready to have. For example - how far away is my son’s desk from where his backpack will hang?"
I waited for a bit of a lull in the traffic and started by asking if the teacher utilized the cubbies for backpacks or if he let the kids hang them on the back of their chairs. Then I explained why I was asking and the conversation, as I said above, grew organically from there.
I told the teacher that I wasn’t expecting him to make changes to his classroom or allow my son to carry his backpack when other students were not given the same. I simply said I wanted him to know my son carried a bulletproof insert in his bag.
There is also one other MAJOR reason why I decided to have this conversation with my son’s teacher in person. I wanted my son to be there as well. Not only to give him a chance to ask the teacher related questions, but I also wanted to communicate something incredibly important.
Your child needs to understand that they must always follow their teacher’s instructions during a Code Red. If their teacher is unable to do so, then your child must understand when it is and isn’t safe to reach for their backpack, particularly if it is not easily accessible.
This is something I felt needed to discuss with my son, his teacher and myself because in most instances, hiding and staying hidden is most important. A bulletproof backpack is meant to be one layer of protection – not the sole layer.
Now you must keep in mind that my son is in elementary school. Students do not carry their backpacks from class to class. If he were in high school, where you usually have your backpack on you, this conversation might be a bit different or not needed at all with the teacher. Instead, the conversation might be with my son, asking him to carry his backpack rather than use a locker.
I believe it is crucial to build a strong relationship with your child's teacher. Attend parent-teacher meetings regularly and make an effort to stay informed about what is happening in the classroom and the overall school environment. By fostering this connection, it will be less intimidating to address any safety concerns that arise.
While rare, school shootings are on the mind of virtually every parent across the country as their children get ready for a new school year. It’s a horrible reality that we unfortunately must face. But giving our kids every chance possible in the event the unthinkable happens is key and the first place that starts is with communication.
Written by Emily Johnson
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