Tampa Bay schools looking into bullet resistant glass as option for increased security

Schools in Tampa Bay looking at security upgrades
Posted at 5:28 PM, Mar 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-15 18:22:04-04

Putting school security to the test: how hard would it be for a gunman to break the glass and get into your child’s school? Right now, school districts across the nation are looking at bullet resistant glass, but is it worth the cost?

The company School Guard Glass put various types of glass through the ringer, testing them with high powered guns, bats and even a sledge hammer.

Largo Police Officers shot at both hurricane glass and School Guard brand glass with an AK-47.

Next, company leaders showed how hurricane glass could be broken using a bat. The hurricane rated glass only took a few swings. The School Guard Glass, even after a full minute of smacks from the bat, still didn’t break. That’s after it was shot 37 times by an AK-47 gun. 

Jeff Besse, the company's CEO explained, “As you saw, our guy never even got through it.”

The company that makes the School Guard Glass plans to open in Largo this summer. They designed the glass at the new Sandy Hook Elementary School and at about 1,000 schools across the county. Company leaders say it’s all about buying time and keeping a gunman out of your child’s school for at least 5 minutes. 

Matt Jocobsohn of School Guard Glass says that amount of time is key.

“The FBI has found law enforcement can arrive to an active shooter situation within 5 minutes," he said. "The most important thing about all of this is space and time: time for lockdown procedures to take place and time for first responders to arrive.”

The glass is thin enough to fit into regular door frames, and even the windows on classroom doors.

Several school district leaders at Thursday's demonstration say they’re impressed. The only drawback? It would cost our local school districts millions of dollars. The cost to retrofit each classroom with the School Guard windows is about $250, which could end up costing districts millions of dollars, depending on how many windows and doors they replace.

ABC Action News spoke with every school district in our area. All of them are looking at big security upgrades. District leaders tell us the front of the schools are the most important to secure— and that’s where bullet resistant glass could come into play.

Here's a break down of what our local school districts told us:

Manatee County:

We have added an armed law enforcement officer into each of our schools since the Parkland tragedy. We used to have them primarily only in middle and high schools. We also started using metal detecting wands on a random basis in our secondary schools. We will be working with law enforcement in the near future on active shooter exercises as well looking at ways we can make our campuses more secure. Bullet resistant glass is one of many options.

Sarasota County:

The Sarasota County School District is working on a plan with our school board and local law enforcement to finalize a comprehensive safety and security plan in the coming weeks. This plan would include prioritizing the physical hardening and upgrades of all our school campuses, use of digital technology, SROs and possible other armed personnel on campus, and enhanced mental and behavioral health support. Safety and security is a topic on the school board agenda for March 22.

Hillsborough County:

We are waiting to get more information about the funding we will be getting from the state. We expect to get a minimum standards list from the state this summer on what the minimum requirements are at each campus. 

Pinellas County:

We are planning to make a lot of changes between now and the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, including the hardening of our campuses. One change we anticipate will be to the front entrances of schools, where we anticipate putting front office staff behind glass and asking visitors to slide their IDs into a slot in the glass before gaining access to the rest of the school. Other security measures are still being worked out. 

Citrus County:

Most of what we do in the area of safety is exempt from public record, but we are looking at our options.

Pasco County:

Our plan is still under development.  No decisions have been made yet.