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My favorite part of going back-to-school shopping as a child was getting to pick out all my school supplies—Lisa Frank folders, pre-sharpened pencils, glittery pencil boxes. When my mom would take my sister and I to the low-income supply drive, I’d furrow my brow at the woman handing me a plastic grocery bag of pre-packaged goodies, annoyed that I couldn’t just choose my favorites from a splayed-out selection. This was the only time I ever really got to choose what my parents bought for me as a kid, and it was fun.
But now, updated lists for back-to-school supplies across the U.S. serve as sobering reminders that children aren’t just preparing to learn math, make crafts, and have nap time. They’re getting ready for potential violence, and the photos posted by parents and shoppers of this season’s hottest bulletproof school supplies solidifies the role that bulletproof materials have in schools.
Across Twitter, people are sharing images of bulletproof backpacks and backpack inserts that they’ve come across or received.
So this is what back-to-school shopping has come to pic.twitter.com/iVEEf0Tazg— September Downing (@SeptD) July 22, 2018
The shopping mall here in McAllen, Texas now has a kiosk selling bulletproof clothing and accessories - including an anti-ballistic school backpack for small children. This is beyond depressing. pic.twitter.com/AT4Mqt7zoI— Sam Hooper (@SamHooper) July 4, 2018
“You know how sad it is to open up a kid’s backpack to grab his lunch and see a bulletproof shield? He’s in PRESCHOOL,” one Twitter user wrote, showing photos of what she identified to be a bulletproof backpack insert. “A preschooler should not have to be carrying this around in his backpack. Seeing this broke my heart.”
You know how sad it is to open up a kid’s backpack to grab his lunch and see a bulletproof shield? He’s in PRESCHOOL. A preschooler should not have to be carrying this around in his backpack. Seeing this broke my heart pic.twitter.com/gKfU9s9TNO— gaia • (@infinitelesss) July 25, 2018
One person shared a photo of a bulletproof backpack her father had bought her for her to use at work.
“It’s heavy and I’m so angry that it’s even needed,” the Twitter user, Calla Hales, wrote.
That moment when your dad says he got you a surprise, presents you with a bulletproof backpack for work, and you’re actually grateful for it. pic.twitter.com/R7FbHbbnHJ— Calla Hales (@heyitscalla) June 10, 2018
Even months before school would start for many students, bulletproof backpacks were already on the move, even going out of stock on BulletBlocker, a bulletproof wares company.
These pink bulletproof backpacks for children are sold out. It’s the middle of Summer. pic.twitter.com/Pw0L80dE0k— Susan Pai (@susanpai) June 8, 2018
And across the U.S. news organizations are sharing pieces about gun shops selling backpack inserts, and bulletproof item manufacturers creating other school-related materials before kids go back in the fall, including ballistic shelters, and bulletproof door and window systems.
This program was recently launched, and Charleston, SC will be the first in the country to launch these doors— SyllabusMag (@SyllabusMag) June 28, 2018
The estimated amount of doors we would need for the district is between 8000-10,000 doors at a cost of $4,000 per door
A firm is now selling bulletproof clipboards to U.S. schools and we aren't even kidding. pic.twitter.com/PqjVWcv35P— AJ+ (@ajplus) March 4, 2018
One school district, the Charleston County School District, is having bulletproof doors installed in a number of undisclosed schools, at no cost by manufacturer R2P, according to local music and culture publication Syllabus Mag. The district is reportedly the first in the country to launch such a program, and if it were to choose to replace all doors, it would require 8,000 to 10,000 doors at $4,000 a piece.
In November, a Florida private school went viral after announcing it would sell bulletproof backpack inserts for $120 each. The announcement came within days after the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting, and less than two months after the Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S.
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.