Bulletproof backpack inserts make way onto school supply lists

WAUSAU (WAOW) – Does your child have a bulletproof insert for his or her school backpack?

It’s the newest item that can go on a school supply list as a record number of school shootings have occurred this year.

A Wisconsin Dells company says its insert  – about the size of a laptop – is designed to protect students and staff in an emergency.

“We don’t want to see anymore victims. We want survivors,” said Becky Xheka, CEO of BlueStone Safety Products, which sells bulletproof backpack inserts that cost from $118 to $200 and protection vests for teachers and staff that cost $800.

Many parents told News 9 they thought the insert was a good idea and were happy a company was taking action.

Erin Salamone, a Wausau mother, said the product would give her “a peace of mind” because she can actually touch it.

Wisconsin Rapids School Superintendent Craig Broeren said he heard about BlueStone Safety Products this summer.

He said he currently doesn’t allow his students to bring backpacks to class.

Broeren said if police told him to get the inserts, he would, but he also could see some issues with them.

“I think there are opportunities when my students, my kids in particular, might not have access to their backpacks,” Broeren said. “Then they are worried about finding their backpack before getting out.”

Josh Chernoff designed the inserts for BlueStone. He describes them as “a lightweight panel that will deflect a .357 magnum-44 magnum 9 millimeter traveling at 13-hundred feet per second.”

The insert slips inside a child’s backpack along the back and is to be pressed tight against the body.

“Ninety-plus percent of the school shootings and the fatalities, and casualties, are students running away from the shooter,” said Ralph Relph, sales director for BlueStone.

He contends the insert is as essential as “putting on your shoes in the morning” and will bring both students and parents comfort.

Chernoff declined to disclose how many of the inserts were sold for this school year.

Broeren said protection of students is important but bigger issues must also be addressed.

“This is a community or societal issue, and I think addressing it is much broader than just more and more armor or more and more firearms,” the school leader said. “Addressing it as a societal issue that needs more than just litigation. It needs prevention.”

Jessica Szitta, a Wausau mother of five, said it’s unfortunate a bulletproof backpack insert had to be created.

“It very much makes me sad that we live in an age where you have to have bulletproof backpacks to go to school,” the mother said.

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