These Uvalde survivors were too scared to go back to school. Then they saw a TikTok.
Kevin Thomas was on a long drive one day in early June 2022, when his wife Kristen called with an idea. She had watched coverage of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and it made her think of their five children and grandchildren. The Thomases own a family business in Alabama that produces pop-up ballistic housing for the US military to use in conflict zones. Kristen wondered: What if her husband could invent a pop-up ballistic safe to give kids like those at Robb Elementary a fighting chance at surviving a school shooting?
“I said, That’s a great idea, but let me work on something that we can put in a corner or something that’s there when we need it“, Thomas said. By the end of the ride, he had it figured out.
“I was literally working with my hands like that,” Thomas said, creating a right angle with her wrists together and her fingers outstretched, just like Miah and Elena had done. “I’m like, Oh yeah, it can go around a corner…and be able to fold and reverse when needed.” Considering the wall space it would take up, he decided to add whiteboard cladding to the exterior. He named it Rapid Access Safe Room, or “RASR”.
When Thomas, a tall guy from northern Alabama built like a drill sergeant, finds out the girls saw his invention on TikTok, he cries. Thomas says his company has received at least 5,000 requests from school districts across the country who want RASRs, which sell for $60,000 each. He says it takes 10 seconds to deploy the RASR and it can be done by a child.
“The deal in Covenant is just going to show you that whatever you have at the front door or around the perimeter, if they get inside, you better have a backup plan,” said said Thomas, referring to the March school shooting at the Covenant. School in Nashville.
According to the Pew Research Center, “about one-third (32%) of parents of children in K-12 schools say they are very or extremely worried about a shooting happening at their child’s school.” That number can be as high as 49% for families in low-income communities, like the Uvalde neighborhood around Robb Elementary.
But research has repeatedly found that not only is there no evidence that tougher schools reduce the risk of gun violence, but also that it may actually have negative effects on the mental health of children. students and staff. Researchers have found that students experience more fear with visible security precautions, such as metal detectors and surveillance cameras, and also found a decline in student participation in extracurricular activities, student-teacher confidence scores, and even academic achievement.
“We also have to be really careful, even in serious attempts to keep our children safe, (that we) don’t turn our schools into fortresses that may be safe from violent external attack, but are not places for learning and emotional growth,” says Nick Suplina, senior vice president of law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, a leading gun safety organization founded after the shooting of Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
Despite the impasse in national politics over gun reform, it is actually one of the most widely supported political issues in America right now. According to a Fox News poll last April, 87% of voters support background checks on all gun buyers; 81% support raising the legal age to buy a firearm to 21; and 80% support demanding sanity checks for gun buyers and allowing police to take guns from those who could be a danger to themselves or others.