UMES' newest security measure has people talking
Dr. Nina Lyon-Bennett holds a bulletproof whiteboard while inventor George Tunis demonstrates for a CNN cameraman how it repels a simulated bullet.
PRINCESS ANNE, MD – (Aug. 27, 2013) – UMES’ decision to purchase hand-held dry-erase boards that can double as bulletproof shields has brought the university world-wide media attention.
An international TV audience that tuned in Monday night to the CNN talk show, “Piers Morgan Live,” heard UMES police chief Ernest Leatherbury talk about a new kind of classroom security measure.
“I see this as a proactive step to ensure the safety of our community in the unlikely event … someone does come on this campus with the intent to harm our students, staff and our faculty,” Leatherbury told the show’s host.
Leatherbury was joined in a UMES classroom by George Tunis, founder of Hardwire LLC, the manufacturer of protective armor for the military and law enforcement agencies that he is now marketing as a supplemental safety tool to educators.
“This same technology can apply to your school and the armor needs to be there,” Tunis said. The “Sandy Hook (school shooting) was done and over in three minutes. The armor needs to be in the hands … of the teachers because they are the ones that are there to protect the students.”
UMES announced Aug. 14 its purchase of 200, 18-inch-by-20-inch writing tablets from Hardwire in nearby Pocomoke City. The boards will be made available to faculty and possibly placed in other high-traffic offices.
The university bought the boards using $59,800 provided by its private foundation. No public funds or student tuition were used.
Tunis said UMES is the first college in the nation to invest in his new product, a pronouncement that has attracted attention from journalists.
Reports about the university’s dry-erase board acquisition have appeared across America and in Asian newspapers, while television journalists from Japan and France also have expressed interest in the story.
Morgan, who was in Los Angeles, asked Leatherbury, a retired Maryland State Police officer, how he felt about having whiteboards in the classroom.
“I am supportive of anything that aids us in ensuring the safety of our students, faculty and staff at the university,” Leatherbury said.
While some have questioned the whiteboards’ potential effectiveness, Leatherbury and other security experts point out the tablet should be viewed as a “last line of defense” in response to an active shooter intrusion.
During the 4-minute, 20-second segment, CNN viewers also saw a pre-taped demonstration featuring Dr. Nina Lyon-Bennett, a UMES faculty leader, holding a whiteboard while Tunis discharged a high-pressure instrument that simulates a bullet at point-blank range.
Dr. Bennett said she visualized being fearful at the prospect of fending off an assailant, but she also said she felt “empowered” having something in her hand that could distract an assailant so students could seek safety.
School security is a growing concern across the country and UMES President Juliette B. Bell has said she is heartened by the dialogue the university’s action has sparked nationwide.
“If our decision to be pro-active in making our classrooms a little safer has contributed to the national discussion, then we feel good about the role we’ve played,” Dr. Bell said. “At the end of the day, making our campus as safe as we possibly can is a top priority.”
Dr. Bell and Dr. Bennett also noted the university investment has potential to pay dividends as a teaching tool, since UMES trains future teachers as well as law enforcement professionals.
Bill Robinson, director, public relations office, (410) 621-2355