Using technology designed to protect U.S. troops, a Maryland company that makes bulletproof whiteboards has contracted with a university seeking to offer its professors greater protection in the event of a school shooting.
The University of Maryland-Eastern Shore announced that it is buying 200 of the whiteboards from Hardwire LLC, a company based in Pocomoke City, Maryland, citing the need for a heightened sense of security in the wake of deadly mass shootings in recent years.
Hardwire manufactures a variety of protective systems for police and military use, and also designs protective systems for infrastructure such as bridges. Between 2008 and 2011, it produced more than 5,000 armor kits for U.S. Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected (MRAP) vehicles, the company says on its website.
More recently, the company has adapted technologies for school security, most notably the lightweight, 18-by-20-inch bulletproof whiteboards designed to protect the user's head and torso.
The university's president, Juliette Bell, told CNN that the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last December, in which a lone gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, was a factor in the decision. Although UMES has not had a shooting incident, preventive campus security is a critical consideration, Bell said.
"It's the reality, as unfortunate as that is."
UMES has detailed response procedures for managing emergencies, but Bell said she and other school officials saw the whiteboards as viable a first line of defense.
"Anything that we can do that could potentially save a life, we are going to explore," she said.
UMES Campus Police Chief Ernest Leatherbury noted the board, which weighs less than 4 pounds, is user-friendly. "This is so accessible," he said, "and it's not cumbersome."
UMES is the first U.S. institution of higher education to make such a significant investment in the whiteboards, committing nearly $60,000. They will be in classrooms when classes resume for the fall semester on August 26.