(Photo: Grant L. Gursky for USA TODAY).
Pocomoke City, MD -- In direct response to the deadly school shooting in Newtown, CT, a Maryland armor manufacturer has developed a handheld white board for classrooms that can stop a bullet from a handgun fired at point-blank range.
"It's something I don't think any American can tolerate anymore, and we're in a position to do something about it," said George Tunis, CEO and chairman of Pocomoke City-based Hardwire. "I was like - all right, let's take everything we got, see what we can throw at this problem, figure out an innovative solution."
The 18-by-20-inch, 3.75-pound white boards are meant to slip unobtrusively into the classroom as a teaching tool while being large enough to cover the head and torso. Each has three rubberized handles on the back, handy for a teacher to carry. In an emergency, the user can slip a forearm inside the handles, and it becomes a shield.
Tunis called the white boards a last line of defense for teachers and students against attackers with handguns, one meant to buy them time - or to avert tragedy - before police arrive. Hardwire also offers a 10-by-13-inch ballistic clipboard with a white board surface.
"As teachers are doing their daily lesson plans, it's in their hands. And if there's a crisis, it's in their hands," Tunis said. "Teachers are not first responders, but sometimes they're thrust into that role."
The white boards are derivative of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle technology that Hardwire pioneered to protect military convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan. The armor is crafted from an ultra-strong, polyethylene-based textile called Dyneema.
Tunis donated 90 white boards, valued at $20,000, to Worcester Preparatory School, the Berlin school where he sends his children.
Headmaster Barry Tull declined to say how the school's 525 kindergarten through 12th-grade students were trained to use their white boards in case of an attack.
"We're very grateful to receive them," he said.
"The products he has provided for us, I have been able to (provide) widespread layered protection throughout all the buildings on our campus. I've had teachers say, every layer we add, it just makes people feel fundamentally a bit more secure."