Bulletproofing students at St. Cornelius

Graduating eighth-graders at St. Cornelius School in Chadds Ford were the first students in the country to get newly styled bulletproof panels for backpacks. The panels, called SafeShield, are the product of Unequal Technologies, and the company donated them to the school during a brief presentation this morning.

Rob Vito, president of Unequal, said his company has been building protection for military and law enforcement for 10 years, but the new SafeShield ranks highest in protection. Recent news events made the company want to do more.

"When we saw the epidemic happening in the schools, we decided it was time to do something," he said.

Vito gave 25 panels to the school and another 15 to the eighth-graders.

The panels are 10-by-12 inches, are 1/4 of an inch thick and weigh 20 ounces. Additionally, the shields are two-way, meaning either side will stop a bullet. Vito said most protective vests worn by police and military personnel only work one way. Bullets will pass through them if the wrong side is facing outward. Not so with the SafeShield.

"They’ll stop the most powerful handguns in the world, .44 magnums, .357 Sigs. We went to the military testing grounds and said, ‘Break this,’" Vito said.

The panel’s stood up to rounds from the firearms mentioned, plus other handguns and shotguns. They’re also stab-resistant and, according to company literature, the SafeShield may even protect against fragmentation shrapnel, though that level of protection is difficult to rate.

Since they’re bidirectional, he said, it doesn’t matter how the students carry them. Once inserted into a backpack, the pack can be worn on the back, the front, or carried in front to cover the torso or face. This versatility, he said, gives students and school staff options and flexibility as to what to do if faced with an active shooter situation.

Barbara Rosini, the principal at St. Cornelius, said she contacted Vito after getting the idea during a school safety conference.

"I worry about our kids. We can only protect them so far," she said. "This product can make our kids safer. I hope you [the students] keep them with you in high school."

Msgr. David Diamond called the product "astounding" and said, "They could have made a difference in Florida."

While this first batch of SafeShields was donated to St. Cornelius — where two of Vito’s children go to school — Vito said other schools throughout the country have been contacting Unequal.

SafeShields sell for $150, but schools can buy them for $99 a piece. Individuals can go to https://unequal.com/safeshield/ for more information and to order.

Unequal is a local company headquartered at 10 LaCrue Avenue in Concord Township.


About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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