Par­ents add bul­let­proof back­packs to their shop­ping lists

Mother says she wor­ries more and more about shoot­ings; re­tailer says he’s sold out a few times

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Dar­rell Smith

It’s a grim back-to-school ac­ces­sory for our anx­ious times: bul­let­proof back­packs.

The back­packs are one more el­e­ment of the de­bate over the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of as­sault weapons as the na­tion reels from the mass shoot­ings in Gil­roy, Texas and Ohio.

“No par­ent should ever have to con­tem­plate buy­ing their child a bul­let­proof back­pack to keep them safe at school,” pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and for­mer state at­tor­ney gen­eral Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris tweeted in June.

Yet many par­ents, shaken by the lat­est atroc­i­ties, are wor­ried that their chil­dren’s school will be the next tar­get.

“The back­pack has been a pop­u­lar item,” Yasir Sheikh, whose Sky­line USA man­u­fac­tures the Guard Dog Se­cu­rity bul­let­proof back­packs sold at Of­fice De­pot and other re­tail­ers, told CNBC this week. “We have sold out a few times this year.”

Of­fice De­pot and Of­ficeMax are among a num­ber of re­tail­ers sell­ing the bags. The bags are not avail­able at the South Cedar Crest Boule­vard Of­fice De­pot, but can be pur­chased on­line for $174.99. Ship­ping is free with an es­ti­mated delivery of 3 to 5 busi­ness days.

In other stores, in­clud­ing one in Cal­i­for­nia, cus­tomers like Juliet Linden were met by dis­plays of stu­dent back­packs and other back-to-school sup­plies. A hand-drawn poster touted a back­pack do­na­tion drive for a lo­cal el­e­men­tary school. The group of bul­let­proof back­packs hung in a rear row.

Linden lives in a ru­ral area out­side Sacramento and has two school-aged daugh­ters. Both her girls’ schools have strong re­la­tion­ships with law en­force­ment and Linden says she feels her chil­dren are safe.

Still, the pos­si­bil­ity of a school shoot­ing is “al­ways in the back of my mind,” she said.

“It’s pretty crazy that you have to worry about that — es­pe­cially for the price — but it’s un­der­stand­able,” Linden said. “As a par­ent in this day and age, you worry more and more about things like this.”

Stu­dents do, too. Nearly 60% of U.S. teenagers between 13 and 17 said they were very or some­what wor­ried that a shoot­ing could hap­pen on their cam­pus, ac­cord­ing to a Pew Re­search Cen­ter sur­vey con­ducted in the two months af­ter the Fe­bru­ary 2018 mass school shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Florida.

The same Pew sur­vey con­cluded most par­ents shared their chil­dren’s con­cerns.

Brandi D. Liles and Dawn Blacker are at­tuned to fam­i­lies’ anx­i­ety as child psy­chol­o­gists at

UCDavis Med­i­cal Cen­ter’s Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in Sacramento.

“Un­der­stand, peo­ple have an urge to do some­thing,” Liles said. “As a pro­fes­sional, is there re­search to show that th­ese things are ef­fec­tive or does it in­crease anx­i­ety for kids? As par­ents, teach­ers and se­cu­rity, we can do much more es­sen­tial work around this than giv­ing kids a back­pack and not talk about it.”

Liles and Blacker cite the re­sources on mass vi­o­lence de­vel­oped by the Na­tional Child Trau­matic Stress Net­work and coordinate­d by UCLA and Duke Univer­sity, with its guide­lines for par­ents to help chil­dren af­ter a re­cent shoot­ing and for teens cop­ing af­ter mass vi­o­lence.

Look for com­mon re­ac­tions, they said. Fears that an­other shoot­ing is go­ing to hap­pen; a change in ac­tiv­ity level or dif­fi­culty with sleep. And reestab­lish rou­tines to re­claim some nor­malcy.

“Giv­ing your child the space to ask ques­tions — we know avoid­ance will lead to anx­i­ety,” Blacker said.

“You can val­i­date their fears but get them back into their rou­tines as soon as pos­si­ble,” Liles said.

Lori Al­had­eff car­ries a back­pack. She be­lieves a bul­let­proof back­pack may have saved her daugh­ter’s life. The gear is re­quired equip­ment for her daugh­ter’s sur­viv­ing brothers.

Al­had­eff’s daugh­ter, Alyssa, was 14 when she and 16 oth­ers were killed in the Park­land mas­sacre on Valen­tine’s Day 2018. Alyssa left be­hind her par­ents and two younger brothers.

Al­had­eff and hus­band, Ilan, have since gone on to found Make Our Schools Safe, a na­tional school safety non­profit group.

Al­had­eff said they lived in what they called the “Park­land bub­ble.” Then came the day that changed ev­ery­thing.

“Af­ter the tragedy, one of my re­quire­ments for my two sons was for them to have a (bul­let­proof ) back­pack to go back to school. If all else fails, they’ll at least have that,” Al­had­eff said.

“It’s so bad that we have to think about th­ese types of things — God for­bid, I hope (my sons) never have to use it — but if she had that bag, it might have saved her life. I even take my back­pack when I go other places.”

“There are peo­ple who won’t go there yet,” she said of bul­let­proof back­packs. “I ab­so­lutely thought I would never go there ei­ther, then you change the way you think about ev­ery­thing,” Al­had­eff said. “It’s some­thing to pro­tect them­selves if ev­ery­thing fails.”

DAR­RELL SMITH/TNS

Bul­let­proof back­packs are on dis­play at Of­fice De­pot on East Stock­ton Boule­vard in Sacramento, Cal­i­for­nia, on Aug. 2. Of­fice De­pot is one of sev­eral na­tional re­tail­ers sell­ing the items. Re­cent mass shoot­ings in Cal­i­for­nia, Texas and Ohio are in­flu­enc­ing de­mand as chil­dren re­turn to school.

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