An Alabama school has introduced whiteboards that can act as shelters during mass shootings and storms.
Cullman City Schools revealed the new safety system on Monday which is meant to fold out from the wall and protect students during natural disasters and active shooter situations.
Superintendent Kyle Kalhoff said it “can make a difference between life or death in the unimaginable school shooter situation,” according to AL.com.
At West Elementary School, two special education classrooms have been outfitted with the whiteboards, at a cost of $120,000.
It’s the first school in the US to put the convertible saferooms in place. When deployed, the saferoom can fit about 60 children or 20 adults.
Democratic State Representative Anthony Daniels told AL.com: “We can’t afford not to do anything. We’ve been having conversations for too long and someone has come up with a solution to solve the problem.”
“I serve on the Budget Committee and so for me, this is something that’s needed and it’s something that I’m certainly on board with,” he added.
Here is the safe room in action! While it’s simple to put in place, both teachers with one in their classroom said they keep them set up and students use them as sensory or hang out rooms https://t.co/QGDh2gFxj1 pic.twitter.com/5FEgGTNt1L
— Gillian Brooks (@GillianBNews) March 13, 2023
Special Education teacher Hali Marquette said she usually leaves one of the saferooms in use, providing her with an additional teaching space.
The doors lock from the inside and there are no door handles on the outside. The locks are controlled by a teacher or an administrator.
“I’ve started using it as a sensory space for my children,” Ms Marquette said, according to the local outlet. “It’s an incentive … if you behave, if you do what is asked of you, you can go in and have some free time. So it’s been really good so far. They love it. And that’s the most important thing is making it a safe space for them.”
Kevin Thomas, from Cullman, came up with the idea for the system following the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on 24 May last year when 19 students and two teachers were killed.
The company making the whiteboards, KT Security Solutions, said they can withstand up to a .308 calibre rifle. There was no information available on any testing done on storm safety, according to AL.com.
The president of National School Safety and Security Services, Kenneth Trump, told the outlet that “quick fixes and lots of gadgets and products often leads to security theater where products and hardware provide an emotional security blanket to make people feel safer, but that may not necessarily actually make them safer”.
“Active shooters are only of many school safety threats and school leaders need to spend as much time, if not more, on prevention and planning for more likely security threats such as non-custodial parent issues at elementary schools or fighting and issues that require heightened adult supervision to prevent incidents.”
Last year there were 46 school shootings in the US, which is more than at any point since 1999, according to The Washington Post.
“We want to get this implemented legislatively. Ultimately, the goal is to have these be just like fire suppression systems,” Mr Thomas told AL.com of the school safety system.