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Security Update

Defensive Action with Bulletproof Backpacks New Tool to Evaluate School Security Districts Keep Out Sex Offenders with Screening Software

Defensive Action with Bulletproof Backpacks

New clothes? Check. Notebooks and binders? Check. Bulletproof backpack? Check ... ?

As many parents tackled back-toschool shopping lists last month, one new safety item they might not have thought to consider-My Child's Pack-was on the market, thanks to two fathers in North Shore, Mass.

It started after the Columbine shooting in 1999, when Joe Curran and Michael Pelonzi watched and worried for their own children. They developed the idea to put bulletproof material inside a backpack. They're calling it defensive action.

Others, however, are calling it impractical and counterproductive.

"There is a huge difference between feeling safer and actually being safer," says Kenneth S. Trump, president of National School Safety and Security services. "Calls for bulletproof backpacks ... to deflect bullets may sound good to desperate parents, but the ideas are basically impractical to those who understand schools and kids."

Curran and Pelonzi maintain that they're just two dads trying to do what's best for their kids and other parents throughout the country who feel the same.

Pelonzi says the procedure for most emergencies in schools is "lock the doors, shut the lights off , and wait for the police," and with the bullet-deflecting backpack they're doing the best they can with the options that they have.

But Trump argues that "the first and best line of defense is a well-trained, highly alert school staff and student body." He adds that the majority of kids do not carry backpacks in school all day and that administrators are increasingly requiring students to leave backpacks in lockers.

Pelonzi says they have sold more than 1,000 of the $175 backpacks nationwide since they went on sale in August. Orders have even come in from Beverly Hills.

For more information about the backpacks visit

New Tool to Evaluate School Security

CDW Government (CDW-G), the leading source of IT solutions to government agencies and educators, recently published its School Safety Index Self-Assessment Tool, which allows you to participate in CDW-G's School Safety Index survey to learn how your district compares to the national school safety average CDW-G also recently reported.

CDW-G surveyed 381 school district IT and security directors on 14 elements of physical and cybersafety.

Bob Kirby, CDW-G K12 senior director, says the new tool enables school leaders to understand how to improve the security of school learning environments.

The survey found that many districts have a variety of programs in place for data security, but not much beyond surveillance cameras to address physical security.

The self-assessment tool is online at, and the survey report is available at

Districts Keep Out Sex Offenders with Screening Software

Districts are utilizing visitor screening computer systems to flag sex offenders attempting to enter schools.

One such system, V-Soft, manufactured by Houston-based RaptorWare, optically scans a visitor's driver's license or other ID. Used by about 330 districts, the Web-based application checks that information against sex offender registries in 49 states. (Hawaii currently does not provide information.)

To guard against false matches, after flagging an individual the system displays the driver's license photo and the photo contained in the registry database.

"I think it has deterred sex offenders ... because everybody knows that we've got it," says Superintendent Jackie Pons of Leon County (Fla.) School District, which uses the system in its 55 schools.

Although systems have raised concerns among privacy rights groups, parents in the Spring (Texas) Independent School District have accepted the technology, says Alan Bragg, chief of district police.

Bragg says the system gets three to five hits a week from parents, visitors, contractors, and even students, who can attend Texas schools until the age of 21.

"When they understood that it was for registered sex off enders and it was to make sure those people are not around our kids, they supported it 100 percent," he says.

-Kevin Butler