Picture your first-grade classroom.
Remember the blessedly mediocre art projects hung up in a row, the calendar that taught you what a “Wednesday” was, the walls built to resist the flesh-ripping firepower of a military-grade assault weapon...
Wait, the what now?
Minneapolis company Versare Solutions has just unveiled what it says is a first-of-its-kind product: the Portable Shield Partition (patent pending), a wall on wheels that can withstand “multiple impacts by a .44 magnum and 9mm ammunition.” Versare didn’t respond to interview requests, but a post on its website says the company “believes defensive solutions are necessary” to regain “peace of mind” in American schools.
In short: It’s no longer enough for your first-grade classroom to be friendly and clean and faintly magical. It must also be prepared for someone, anyone, to walk in with a gun and start shooting.
Gary Amoroso, the executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, is giving it a cautious endorsement, sight unseen.
“If a district believes this type of tool or resource could be beneficial to students and staff, it could be worth the investment,” he says. No single “action or resource” is the panacea to school shootings, he says… but hey, if an armored classroom helps, it helps.
“This is completely irresponsible,” Austin Berger says. He’s a member of Students Demand Action, Minnesota, a youth-led group trying to keep the gun control movement alive after the deadly Parkland, Florida school shooting. Following the Parkland massacre, the March for Our Lives brought 20,000 participants to the state Capitol steps.
For months, Students Demand Action has been asking legislators for some form of gun control – “common sense” stuff, like bump stock bans and universal background checks. They want legislators to do something to make it harder to get a gun and shoot up a school.
And now schools are being offered bulletproof walls for about $3,500 apiece, because enforcing a wall is a low-cost ransom people will pay, one that seems easier than stopping murderers before they get to children.
“These are monuments to the failure of our legislators to protect us,” Berger says.
He thinks it won’t be long before these dividers are being sold to public schools, before taxpayers are handing over their money to make classrooms that double as warzones, before first-graders look at the wall and don’t even blink because to them, the wall has always been there – as has the threat of annihilation by a stranger.
The new wall is a new normal: a quiet form of acceptance for what should be unacceptable.