Two Alabama classrooms now have $60,000 whiteboards that turn into gun, storm shelters -

2023-03-16 16:49:05 By : Mr. Taylor Wang

Hali Marquette, a special education teacher at West Elementary School at Cullman City School District in Cullman, Alabama, demonstrates pulling out a safe room from the corner of her classroom. The product from KT Solutions is designed to act as a whiteboard, gun-safe security room and storm shelter. Savannah Tryens-Fernandes/

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Cullman City Schools unveiled a new safety system Monday that is meant to protect students during both active shooter events and natural disasters.

Two special education classrooms at West Elementary School are currently piloting the technology, developed by KT Security Solutions, which essentially turns a classroom whiteboard into a pop-out, standalone, bulletproof storm shelter. The school is the first in the nation to test the safe rooms, which cost the district about $120,000 for both classrooms.

Cullman City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kalhoff said the system “can make a difference between life or death in the unimaginable school shooter situation.”

When the system is not deployed, it serves as a functional white board that a teacher can quickly pull out into a room that fits up to approximately 60 children or 20 adults.

“We can’t afford not to do anything. We’ve been having conversations for too long and someone has come up with a solution to solve the problem,” said state Rep. Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville), who was among other state, national and educational officials who attended the unveiling Monday. “I serve on the Budget Committee and so for me, this is something that’s needed and it’s something that I’m certainly on board with.”

Other officials present included Rep. Robert Aderholt, state Rep. Laura Hall, Alabama State School Superintendent Eric Mackey, representatives from Sen. Tuberville’s office and Wesley Britt, Sen. Katie Britt’s husband.

Hali Marquette, one of the special education teachers, said she typically leaves the room in use so she can have an additional instruction space for her students. The doors to the safe room lock from the inside and the lock is controlled by a teacher or administrator.

“I’ve started using it as a sensory space for my children,” said Marquette. “It’s an incentive…if you behave, if you do what is asked of you, you can go in and have some free time. So it’s been really good so far. They love it. And that’s the most important thing is making it a safe space for them.”

When asked what gave school officials enough confidence to have their schools be the first in the nation to use the technology, Alabama State Sen. Garlan Gudger said the system is a product of “data driven research to ensure it’s secure and safe.”

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The system was invented by Cullman local Kevin Thomas in the aftermath of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. According to KT Security Solutions, the safe room offers NIJ level III protection, which can withstand up to a .308 caliber rifle. No information was provided on testing done to ensure the room could work as a storm shelter.

School safety expert Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, says schools should be focused on a more multi-faceted approach to school safety beyond technological advancements.

“Quick fixes and lots of gadgets and products often leads to security theater where products and hardware provide an emotional security blanket to make people feel safer, but that may not necessarily actually make them safer,” said Trump.

“Active shooters are only of many school safety threats and school leaders need to spend as much time, if not more, on prevention and planning for more likely security threats such as non-custodial parent issues at elementary schools or fighting and issues that require heightened adult supervision to prevent incidents.”

Although school shootings are statistically rare, they have been climbing in number in recent years, according to an investigation done by The Washington Post.

Gudger and Thomas say they hope the system will become as widely used in schools as fire alarms.

“We want to get this implemented legislatively. Ultimately, the goal is to have these be just like fire suppression systems,” said Thomas.

Not only is Cullman the site of the first classroom prototypes, but it is also the planned location for a safe room manufacturing warehouse.

“We’re building a new manufacturing facility right now in Jones Chapel,” said Thomas. “We will have automated machinery within the next two weeks…and we want everything that we do to start here.”

Cullman City Schools said money for the two pilot safe rooms came from the state advancement and technology fund; but the district hopes to use “local partners to help fund [future] installments.”

The district did not comment on whether they had a contract with KT Security Solutions or what their plans were for further installments.

“Ideally, the more we expose this concept at the state and federal level, the more support we can get with funding these rooms, not just in Cullman, but across the entire state,” said Kallhoff in an email to

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