The fortified doors and thick bulletproof glass that protect bankers and airline pilots from armed assailants are moving into Southern California schools.
The Paramount-based security company Safer Schools For America once specialized in bullet-resistant doors and windows for banks and court houses. But the group of ballistics experts turned their attention to schools about two years ago, right after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.
“We’re alarmed at the rampant amount of shootings that have been taking place,” said co-founder Ron Triebels.
Two summers ago, on June 7, a gunman went on a shooting spree through the streets of Santa Monica that eventually ended on the Santa Monica College. Five people were killed. Police shot and killed the suspect, 23-year old John Zawahri, on the campus.
The bullet-resistant door and lock system the company designed is pretty simple. A layer of thick bullet-resistant film, which doubles as a white-erase board, is bolted to the middle of a normal wood classroom door.
The technology upgrades come with a bullet resistant lock attached to the door that is controlled with a remote assigned to a classroom teacher. The teacher can lock the door with the remote as far as 75 feet away from the room.
An LED light signals that the door is locked but will still be open from the inside in case another student, teacher or staff is seeking safety.
“What school officials have to do is adopt what the banks are doing, what the police stations are doing,” Triebels said. “Why aren’t we doing that for our kids? Why aren’t we protecting the teachers?”
Triebels said school districts struggle with finding funding to pay for enhanced security systems.
“It’s a lot of money,” said Pat Stellhorn, head of maintenance for the Huntington Beach Union High School District. He said the new doors and locks should be installed within two months.
On Tuesday, Valley Vista High School got more than two-dozen bullet resistant door-and-lock security systems thanks to a $25,000 donation from the new wireless company ROK Mobile.
The high school was chosen for the donation because the company owners at Safer Schools For America wanted to start somewhere local -- in Orange County. The school is an alternative high school with an on-site day care center for students with children.
Patty Bahena, 17, is a senior at Valley Vista High School. She thinks the school is in a safe neighborhood and doesn’t worry much about a shooter.
“I worry more about the day care than here because my baby is in there,” she said. “The (babies) can’t do anything. They don’t know anything.”
Valley Vista High School principal Kerry Clitheroe said she appreciates the security system donation especially because it doesn’t make the school look militaristic.
“To learn, you have to feel secure and relaxed” she said.
ROK Mobile plans to donate security systems to three more schools, said co-founder Jonathan Kendrick.
The new wireless company has partnered with the Safer Schools For America security company to come up with a fundraising program that school PTAs can use to raise money to install security systems at their schools.
Correction: Photo captions in an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Valley Vista High School was located in Huntington Beach. While the school is part of the Huntington Beach Union High School District, Valley Vista H.S. is actually located in the city of Fountain Valley.