From lobbying Congress to staging protests advocating for gun law reform, parents around the San Ramon Valley have been trying to make schools safer for their children in a variety of ways. One Danville dad has taken a step further and created a bulletproof shield to store in his teenage children's backpacks during school hours.
Matt Materazo, CEO of a local protective gear company, created the PakProtect armor plate as a way for his children to defend themselves should an active shooter trespass on their school.
"It wasn't until Parkland and (Santa Fe) that I realized I have to do something, if not to protect my kids than to give me peace of mind," Materazo said. "That's when I put a plate into my kids' backpack. My son actually didn't notice it for three days."
The Danville-based company Materazo founded and currently leads as CEO, Gladiator Solutions, supplies law enforcement, private and rescue agencies with tactical protective products, mainly in the form of body armor.
He's been receiving national attention for the PakProtect after the start of the school year, with the product recently featured in news outlets such as the Washington Times, MSNBC and locally by ABC7.
He first thought of the idea to provide his children with shields several years ago and decided to follow through with the project after the deadly shootings in Parkland, Fla. and Santa Fe, Texas.
After creating the first designs he was approached by his sons' friends who wanted shields of their own. Materazo spoke with the teens' parents and the idea snowballed from there. Now PakProtect is offered in his company’s product line.
The standard PakProtect size is rectangular with round corners, and is designed to fit into the average backpack -- with dimensions of 11.0" by 14.0" by 0.25." It is also designed to be ultralight, something that Materazo said was a key aspect, and weights approximately 1.15 pounds. The shield is currently "one size fits all" and can be used by any age.
The shield offers a user Level IIIA protection, which means it can withstand the force of knives, as well as most handguns, rifles and shotguns. Material is designed to absorb the impact of bullets, as opposed to deflecting them, where they can hit a bystander.
PakProtect is designed to be used by students in a specific way, and Materazo encourages buyers to discuss the proper use of the shield with their children.
"Unless you're living under a rock you're well aware of this dark reality," he said. "That's why talking to (kids) is so important. That's why sitting down with them and letting them know why they have this and how to properly use it is so important."
Materazo stresses that it is not enough to simply buy a shield and put it into a student's backpack; parents and guardians need to talk to their kids about active shooter situations and what to do, specifically referring to the "run, hide, defend" strategy.
The shield was created to complement the strategy, Materazo said, and can be used to shield in the first two situations -- should all other options fail it can be used as a weapon against an attacker.
"This project isn't about kids thinking, 'Oh I'm a superhero and I can do something I probably shouldn't' in the event of a shooting. It is all about complementing run hide defend," he said.
Materazo created PakProtect to provide students with practical protection during an active shooter situation, but his company still supports preventative measures to help keep such a scenario from ever happening.
Eight percent of profit proceeds are donated to the COR Foundation, an organization started in 2007 by Virginia Tech students, faculty and staff who aim to create "more compassionate student leaders and preventing violence in schools and colleges," Materazo said.
"Talk to your kids and also talk to your school, find out what they are doing to educate the kids to prepare them for an event like this," he said. "The hope is that once you put this in your backpack, after you have the conversation with them on how to properly use it...it becomes an afterthought. Hopefully you will never have to think about it and they never have to use it."