Todd Chandler’s Bulletproof provides a basic overview of the many challenges undertaken by a school to prepare for the eventuality of a school shooting. Over the course of the documentary, we witness active shooter drills, a public service announcement concerning what to do when there’s an active shooter, and a public forum between a school district and their police department debating whether to have armed police guarding the schools.
Chandler dispassionately presents these weighty issues without any commentary. There are several sequences that are worthy of deeper exploration. First, there’s the campus surveillance of Texas City High School. One of the vice principals walks the filmmaker through the camera system they use to monitor all staff, faculty, and students. Everyone is required to wear badges which enables the system to monitor their whereabouts. There seems to exist no actual privacy on campus. This is further emphasized by the vice principal attempting to present a criminal example of rogue student behavior. The surveillance system offers a database of student misdemeanors. This is all very unsettling, on account of the lack of privacy provided to students these days.
Second, Bulletproof visits a convention of school security vendors in Las Vegas. Now that public schools are determined to prevent an active shooter situation, the marketplace provides many options of varying degrees of effectiveness to assist the principals, vice principals, and all school faculty in defending their campuses. What I found striking was the most effective vendor was not at this conference. A young, unnamed woman created a business called Wonder Hoodie. Her hoodies and jackets possess enough kevlar to prevent students and civilians from being injured by gunfire.
“…a basic overview of the many challenges undertaken by a school to prepare for the eventuality of a school shooting.”
Finally, we witness a training program to prepare security and teachers to protect their campuses from an active shooter. Relentlessly Christian in its pedagogy, the program seems to provide mixed results in preparing guardians of day schools.
There are two areas in which Bulletproof could use a touch-up to be as impactful as (presumably) intended. First is the fact that the film is jarringly disjointed and confusing when it comes to its geography. There exist no title cards to establish where we’re going, nor is there a narrator to tell it. That needs to change, as it creates whiplash trying to figure out if we are still talking about this or that school district.
Second, there are a few scenes, such as a video clip from 1993 where items are being moved into a school building. What is happening and why? The film never makes that clear, and some sort of text or narration would be very useful in clarifying everything. Finally, I would advise Chandler to consider sharing statistics concerning school shootings as a transition effect from sequence to sequence.
Even though it is disorientating moving from place to place and the lack of context provided, I found Bulletproof to be compelling. School shootings are a far more complex and multifaceted issue than anyone currently portrays it. As such, this documentary is worthy of your time.