Attack-proof? I-TEAM tests technology and tactics contracted company uses to make Duval County schools safer

When children return to school in August, their safety is the top priority.

The May 24 shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman entered an elementary school, killing 19 students and two teachers, has administrators across the country dealing with school security, including largest school district in northeast Florida: Duval County Public Schools.

Jacksonville principals announced that they had hired a private company to conduct a safety audit and training.

“We take every student who walks through these doors, and our job is to make sure they are safe while inside our domain,” DCPS Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said during the interview. June 1 press conference with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. and Duval County School Police Department Chief Greg Burton to announce the agreement with the private security firm named Armored One.

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With 130,000 students in 196 schools, it’s no easy feat.

“But I think we’re on solid ground with our protocols that we have in place,” Duval County School Police Department Chief Greg Burton said.

With such a big issue, News4JAX’s I-TEAM wanted to see what the business was all about. New York-based Armored One builds special glass to slow an attacker and give students and teachers more time to get to safety.

The I-TEAM recently visited the company’s headquarters in Syracuse and, in its warehouse, got a first-hand look at the security technology and tactics used.

Review of issues

At Armored One headquarters, the company trains, tests and transforms to make schools safer. There, the I-TEAM asked Armored One co-founder and CEO Tom Czyz why he started the company.

“It was the night of the Sandy Hook attack, December 14, 2012. That’s how we started. My wife was a teacher at a municipal school here in Syracuse, and between us we had six children,” Czyz said. “And I realized that day, even as a SWAT operator as a homicide detective, that I couldn’t get to my kids fast enough.

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An army veteran and police officer, Czyz knew he could do better and teamed up with his friend Tino Amodei.

“We know it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, right? A single solution will not change anything. It puts a lot of different puzzle pieces together,” said Amodei, co-founder and chief technology officer of Armored One.

News4JAX I-TEAM reporter Vic Micolucci interviews Armored One co-founder Tino Amodei. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.)

The team investigates mass shootings, visits locations and produces reports.

The team found common themes:

  • The shooters showed warning signs before the attacks.

  • They’ve already inspected the campus.

  • They attack during school hours.

  • They want easy entry, entering through an open door or shooting through glass.

  • They also want to see their victims, so they shoot at close range.

  • They encounter little resistance and spend several minutes or more inside the school before being killed or captured.

The goal is to deter a shooter from entering. But, if they try, it is to slow them down – and keep them away from crowded areas – that the police react.

3-pronged approach

Armored One preaches a three-pronged approach:

  1. Threat assessment

  2. Teacher and staff training

  3. Technology to fortify a campus

The Duval County contract, which the city says is less than $100,000, is confidential for security reasons. It is, however, known to include campus assessments to look for vulnerabilities.

“I’m in the field,” explained Armored One evaluator Steve Zaferakis. “That’s where we want to protect all the glass. This is where we want to make sure the outer door is locked to keep that first person out.

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The Duval County contract also includes online training for each employee.

It is not yet clear whether, in the future, school leaders will opt for a third component: technology.

I-TEAM tests attack resistant film, glass

Armored One makes attack resistant films and glass that go on windows and doors.

The company will point out that it’s not bulletproof, but it can still make a big difference. The I-TEAM went to the range to test it.

Czyz, one of the founders of Armored One, showed what it’s like to photograph traditional tempered glass. A pistol shot and a punch, and a shooter could enter.

“The shooter has to reach and unlock a door,” Czyz said. “That’s all they’re looking for.”

Armored One co-founder Tom Czyz showed the I-TEAM what it’s like to photograph traditional tempered glass. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.)

The film that the company is making continues after a window is put in place. It takes a few rounds – and reduces the shooter’s visibility – but it doesn’t take long to get through the door.

Finally, Czyz demonstrated the use of an AR-15 – the weapon of choice for active school shooters – on the company’s safety glass, which has a later exterior film and a thicker layer between two windows.

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He let the I-TEAM put him to the test. It took several minutes to pierce the glass with a baseball bat when it already contained 70 rounds of an AR-15, then a 9 millimeter. Those extra minutes it took to use the bat would have given students and staff time to run and hide and officers to rush.

The company even tests its products in attack-resistant doors, using a ram with 250 pounds of pressure.

Armored One even tests its products in attack-resistant doors, using a ram with 250 pounds of pressure. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.)

Although Armored One cannot gauge what it might have deterred, I-TEAM learned that a few years ago in New York City, a former student attempted to break into a school campus with a machete after posting that he was going to kill students. The staff was well trained and wouldn’t let him in at the entrance. He allegedly tried to break down the window and the door – but failed – and was arrested. He was the only one injured.

The cost

Armored One glass costs about 15% to 20% more than typical glass – it’s a price the company says is worth it.

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All of this costs money, however, and it’s a big chunk in an already stretched budget for many school districts.

“It’s true. I mean, you have limited budgets, you have, you know, inflation happening, you have legislation, making changes, you know, taking things away from our schools, making things harder, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a problem in our society,” said Amodei, the other founder of Armored One. “And that we can’t – just because we can’t allow ourselves – that doesn’t mean we can’t ignore it at the same time.”

The windows and doors aren’t part of Duval County’s current package, but school districts across the United States are installing them, with one district in New York recently including it in a $12 million project.

Add to that an on-campus alert system — and top-notch training — and Armored One says schools will be much safer, and if a life can be saved, that’s money well spent.

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A look at Duval County

I-TEAM asked Armored One CEO Czyz if he noticed any weak spots in Duval County, which has older school buildings.

“There are weak spots, you know, in every building in Duval County. But that’s everywhere in the United States. I would say 80% of our buildings are not built for real security to protect,” Czyz said. “And I’m not saying we don’t want your place to look like a prison. We actually want the most beautiful and relaxed atmosphere possible for these children. But it has to be done well. »

The Armored One team says Duval County leaders are there for the right reasons and are being proactive. The team also says Florida may be the best state in the country to make our schools safer, open the Office of School Safety, and dedicate public funds to improving safety and security on the campus. The company works with a number of districts across the state, but cannot say which ones as many details are confidential.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.

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