In the wake of school shootings, a Chadds Ford company steps up
● By J. Chambless
Robert Vito presented 15 eighth-grade students with their own bulletproof protection on Monday morning.
Bulletproof panels for backpacks [4 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
A Chadds Ford private
school took a bold step into a strange new world on Monday morning
when every member of its eighth-grade graduating class got a
bulletproof panel for their backpacks. Twenty-five staff members at
the school also got the Safe Shield, a patented product making its
Robert Vito, owner of Unequal Technologies, a company based in Glen Mills, handed out the 10-by-12-inch panels to the 15 students during a morning assembly at St. Cornelius School that was covered by two local television stations for its groundbreaking subject matter.
With the eighth-graders sitting beside him on the stage, Vito admitted that he hoped they would never have to use the Safe Shield, but “It's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it,” he said. “This fits into the backpack and students can forget it's there, until the moment of need.”
Unequal Technologies, a company known for developing sports gear and protective gear incorporating Kevlar, has produced panels that have been extensively tested for more than a year. The panels, which weigh only 20 ounces and are about a quarter of an inch thick, can be put into a backpack or briefcase. There is no front or back, so they can be placed in either direction. They will pass through metal detectors, and have been shown to stop bullets up to a .357 Sig, a 9mm full metal jacket round, and a .44 Magnum round, Vito told the students, several of whom looked somberly at their laps. The panels are also effective in deflecting shrapnel and stopping knife attacks.
Vito chose St. Cornelius to debut the Safe Shield because his daughters attend the school. “This is the first time in the history of the United States when students have been issued ballistic panels for protection,” he said.
Principal Barbara Rosini said she, like everyone else in the nation, has been debating what to do to keep students safe in the wake of almost-weekly school shootings. “I asked Mr. Vito if there was a possibility that something like this could be developedm,” she said. “This product will be part of our training for our teachers and staff in August. I come to school every day, and I worry about our children. I worry about them going off to high school. We can't say 'It won't happen here' anymore. It happens in big cities and in little towns. But this product, I believe, is something that could help our children be safer.”
In his remarks to the students and the audience, Vito said, “It's sad that the times have called for such a product to be invented, but we have answered the call. The issue is that students aren't able to protect themselves in a timely manner. Unequal has been building products for the military, law enforcement and governmental agencies for over 10 years.
“When Miss Rossini asked if there was something we could develop to protect the students, I went to our research team, and we've been working on that for over a year.”
Students can hold their backpacks in front of their faces, wear them on their chests, or “when running out of a school building, a student can exit without worrying about being shot in the back,” Vito said.
He hopes the availability of the Safe Shield, and the fact that it is undetectable in a backpack, will deter would-be shooters. “When a shooter knows that a student is protected with a Level 3A product like this -- the highest protection you can get from a handgun and a shotgun -- an intruder thinks twice because guns are useless against a product like this,” he said.
“We've been called by schools from across the country, asking if we have an answer to this current epidemic, and we finally do. This raises the bar so high that a would-be assailant will not have as many options as they had before. The students and faculty are protecting themselves.”
While a typical bulletproof vest will cost about $300, Vito said, the Safe Shield will retail for $150, and schools can purchase them for $99 through the company's website, www.unequal.com. More information and background is available online as well.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.