School Security: What Works Best-Window Film or Bullet Resistant Glass?

In a push to harden school security across the U.S., lawmakers are allocating millions
in funds to provide school districts with security glazing materials that help deter and
stall attackers. Tennessee is one of the most recent states to divert funds for school security following the Nashville Covenant School shooting in March 2023.

The Volunteer State raised $230 million for school safety, including $54 million for security upgrades for public and private schools. The upgrades include the installation of “clear, bullet-resistant or entry-resistant film on the glass panel of each exterior entry or basement level window and door.”

While some security window films can help mitigate a ballistic threat by providing additional security, the film does not stop bullets. To do that, bullet-resistant glass is needed, says Gerry Sagerman, sales development for Insulgard Products.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there about what some of these security window films can
do,” he adds. “There’s not a film out there that I am aware of that is truly bullet resistant; I’m talking about a film that is added to a standard piece of glass, I should say. That’s a concern of ours because there’s a lot of misinformation out there.”

Darrell Smith, executive director of the International Window Film Association (IWFA),
recently addressed the issue. He says the association’s stance is that adding security
window film to glass that doesn’t have bullet-resistant properties will not make the glass
bullet-resistant.

“If you need to do something immediately … putting a security window film on the glass
will slow down entry into the building,” Smith said. However, if a school board has the funding, “laminated glass is the way to go. If you need to do something now, the film will give you some protection and slow them down. That is the only thing you gain. This is a life safety issue; we all work together there.”

Wade Arnold, commercial sales director for Specialty Fenestration Group, owners of Quikserv and U.S. Bullet Proofing, says window film has its place for privacy, solar control and bird-friendly applications. However, it doesn’t provide ballistic or blast protection.
Arnold says he actively advocates against window film.

“… Security film is purely coating on the inside or the exterior of the glass panes,” he says.
“[Window film] companies will tell you, ‘Oh, bullets can go through it, but you won’t be
able to push the glass in.’ That’s great … I now have a hole in my chest, but at least the glass held together.”

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