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Bulletproof blankets aren't a crazy idea

Amy Hatch began her career as a print journalist, and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Urbana, Ill. with her husband and two children.

We can't stop shooters, but we can protect kids

On average, a shooting in or near a school is happening once every five weeks. I no longer believe my kids are immune to violence in their classrooms, and I'm scared.

Just before the end of the year, my kids practiced an all-school evacuation drill.

Every child and adult left the school building and walked about three blocks away to practice meeting up at a local church. I was late dropping them off that day and as I drove away I saw neat lines of small bodies snaking down the street, obediently following their teachers.

They were smiling — it was fun for them.

Sandy Hook broke our hearts

It was a lot less fun for me. My eyes filled up with surprised tears and I flashed back to Dec. 14, 2012. That's the day Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. As the horrible news rolled in that 20 small children and six of their educators had been killed in a matter of gruesome minutes, I found myself identifying with the parents of those babies.

I grieved with them — we all grieved with them.

In the 18 months since the Newtown tragedy, an incident involving a minor or adult shooting actively near or inside a school has occurred, on average, once every five weeks.

That is a terrifying statistic.

It's still happening

Nothing has changed, not the way our leaders promised it would after that school-day slaughter. It is so hard to understand why a nation filled with families tolerates a day-to-day familiarity with death inside our schools.

In the wake of Sandy Hook, a spate of "products" were announced that would keep our kids safe in school — bulletproof backpacks, special covers for door handles that could prevent someone from opening the door from the outside, white boards designed to deflect bullets.

This week, a story in my Facebook feed revived this trend, with bulletproof blankets. The photo of this product depicts kids lying on the floor in a hallway, covered with these mats.

The BodyGuard Blanket, designed by ProTech, has straps that allow the user to put it on like a backpack and duck and cover.

We can't stop it, so how else can we protect them?

The idea didn't start with Sandy Hook — instead, Steve Walker, a podiatrist from Edmund, Oklahoma, was inspired to invent the blanket after a huge tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma, in 2013, killing several students inside a school that lacked a tornado shelter.

He and his partners decided to use Dyneema, a high-density plastic used for ballistic armor, to enhance the protective properties of the blanket, making it not only resistant to metal debris but also to bullets.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and while I find no fault with a physician using his talents and brainpower to protect kids, I want to weep that our little ones are so vulnerable to violence inside their classrooms that asking administrators to consider investing $1,000 per child to offer them what amounts to a bulletproof vest is starting to seem like a very good idea, indeed.

Yes, it can happen to you — and me, too

My son asked me why he would ever have to leave his school "for real" to meet up at that church down the road. He's almost 6 years old, the age of so many of the victims at Sandy Hook. I hesitated and my 9-year-old daughter stepped in. "In case of a chemical spill," she cheerfully told her little brother.

But I had read the vague email from school. "We are not giving the children specific scenarios in which we would need to evacuate the building."

They were practicing for a school shooting, and I no longer believe that it can't happen where I live, and to my kids.

More stories about violence and kids

Connecticut school shooting: How to talk to your kids about violence
Teens and risky behaviors: Violence at school
Are we desensitized to real violence?

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