Bulletproof Textbooks

You can’t make this stuff up:

A retired veteran and candidate for Oklahoma State School Superintendent says he wants to make schools safer by creating bulletproof textbooks.

Bill Crozier says the books could give students and teachers a fighting chance if there’s a shooting at their school.

Can you just imagine the movie-plot scenarios going through his head? Does he really think this is a smart way to spend security dollars?

I just shake my head in wonder….

Posted on November 3, 2006 at 12:11 PM50 Comments


merkelcell November 3, 2006 12:29 PM

Gawd, just like as a kid when we were told get on the floor and put the biggest book we had on our heads to prevent radiation burns from the flash. Yes, we did this once a week in California in the late ’50s. Then Dr. Salk came along and asked us just to roll up our sleeves and trust him, yes, boys and girls get into line. Quite please.

Pat Cahalan November 3, 2006 12:48 PM

Remembering how much my backpack weighed in grammer school, I think it would be difficult to find anyone who actually has to carry a block of textbooks buying into this idea.

Not to mention the fact that bulletproof vests would be (a) undoubtedly cheaper (b) much more likely to be useful in the event of a school shooting and (c) are already commercially available.

But wait, most people think it is stupid to dress their kid in a bulletproof vest every day, right? Why does putting the bulletproofing into the book make the idea less stupid?

This demonstrates a factor neither you nor Daniel Gilbert talked about in your “Perceived Risk vs Actual Risk” writings, Bruce… “Perceived Solutions vs Actual Solutions”.

People will often choose a “solution” to a risk (whether the risk is actual or perceived) that seems more “clever”.

Mike Sherwood November 3, 2006 1:02 PM

I’m sure he does think it’s a smart way to spend security dollars. I remember recently reading something somewhere about perceived vs actual risk. This is one of those cases where the intentional attack is taken personally and much more seriously than any number of more likely scenarios.

Of course, this is just a knee jerk reaction to a problem that affects him personally. Anyone who thought about it for more than 10 seconds would realize that it’s a logistical nightmare. In order to design such a product, it would be necessary to determine the most popular calibers for school shootings to determine the threat level. For example, a decent physics textbook may stop a .22LR round with the current 600 page design. On the other hand, if you want to stop a .30-06, you’d probably want half an inch of Lexan on the side closest to the target. The book would absorb some of the impact and the lexan would help prevent penetration. Once the bullet hit the lexan, it would already be in the middle of the book, so it would be less likely to ricochet and hit someone else with a shot that wasn’t perpendicular to the target. Of course, there’s the other aspect where if he succeeded in this particular goal, we would see rates of scoliosis in children skyrocket.

Sadly, I see this trend occurring more frequently as time goes on. Where I work, we have to go through a review process for any computer related project. One of the things we have to provide is a detailed map of how an insider with detailed knowledge of our systems could intentionally sabotage the process and how we’re mitigating against it. That sounds good in theory, but realistically demonstrates the meaning behind “best is the enemy of better. If all new projects require you to spend a lot of time and money to protect yourself from a boogeyman, it encourages the people who ration the time and money to keep the old systems in place with even worse problems.

Wyatt Draggoo November 3, 2006 1:05 PM

I can see this as having opposite of the intended effect: curious or adventurous kids, who would otherwise never bring weapons to school, are going to bring guns just to see if their new bulletproof textbooks work!

Zach November 3, 2006 1:09 PM

The Box O’ Truth to the rescue!


Basically, a 9mm round is the most effective against books among common rounds in pistols. It penetrates about 7 inches of book. The worst performing rifle shot they did went through 8 inches of book.

It still doesn’t change the fact that a backpack full of books, bulletproof or not, won’t protect you from shots fired to your front, or to either the front or back of your head.

TBOT is a really interesting site, though. They’ve shot all kinds of ammunition at all kinds of things to find out how (in)effective the things are at stopping bullets.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster November 3, 2006 1:10 PM

Hey, if we get attacked in data centers we can always wrap ourselves in fiber optic cable and take advantage of the kevlar there, too. 😀

F. Heckel November 3, 2006 1:14 PM

Just equip every student with a copy of Gunther & Sullivan’s “Constitutional Law”.

The problem is then you’d have to strap an algorithms textbook on their chests to keep them from falling over backwards… But it’ll solve three different problems: (1) School shootings (2) Civic engagment and (3) Physical fitness….

Unix Ronin November 3, 2006 1:38 PM

All I will say on this matter is that I’ve already heard of this idea elsewhere, and that my full, uncensored opinion of this imbecile (Crozier) is unprintable. I can’t help but think of the ex-cop hired as a teacher in Texas, who started teaching his class to resist with anything to hand — books, chairs, hands, feet — in the event of being threatened by an armed maniac in school… for which application of common sense and realism, he was fired.

Sul3n3t November 3, 2006 1:43 PM

Ummm… Couldn’t someone see this as being bad for children’s backs. I still remember the strain of carrying more than two large books in a backback as a child.

Now, I’m a grad student and the last thing we need is more expensive books for school.

Kevin November 3, 2006 2:02 PM

Given that accidents are far more likely than shootings wouldn’t it make more sense to have a mandatory helmet law?

Well, of course it wouldn’t but that won’t stop this guy from calling for expensive and even less-likely solutions to less-likely problems.

Dustin November 3, 2006 2:08 PM

The sad part is that I showed this to my wife and her response was, “Is that from The Onion?”

The Onion used to be funny.

Antonin November 3, 2006 2:11 PM

It’ll be interesting to see whether he’ll be elected. They do say that every people gets the government it deserves; not strictly true, of course, but I think people who vote for this guy definitely will deserve being stuck with him.

Chris November 3, 2006 2:12 PM

I think that most of these posts misinterpreted Crozier’s suggestion. He’s not talking about creating bullet-proof books; he’s talking about the bullet-proof properties of existing books.

http://www.koco.com/news/10105982/detail.html has a video where he shot various guns at schoolbooks and found that a police pistol can’t penetrate a Calculus book.

Crozier wants to “put thick used textbooks under every desk for students to use in self-defense.” This wouldn’t cost anything and wouldn’t cause additional back pain. Sure, this might not be the most effective control, but if it gives parents and students a bit of comfort against an unlikely attack without additional cost, why not? We already spend a fortune on the security theatre elsewhere. This security control even has a video to back up the claim.

RSaunders November 3, 2006 2:22 PM

@ Chris,

Having read the real suggestion, I think it's a winner.  It will work.  The kids will have a plan for what to do to protect themselves, so they will stop worrying about it.  Given the chance of the idea being proven wrong is very small, it's a no-brainer.  CRC Handbooks for everyone!  Who knows, a little chemistry might rub off in the process.

Benny November 3, 2006 2:37 PM

Chris said:

“Sure, this might not be the most effective control, but if it gives parents and students a bit of comfort against an unlikely attack without additional cost, why not?”

You’re right, practically speaking, this isn’t a bad solution, especially compared to the other security theatrics out there. But it just really irks me to cater to people’s ignorance rather than correcting it. I suppose that’s idealistic/naive of me.

Fenris Fox November 3, 2006 3:04 PM

Besides the absolute absurdium behind this idea, they leave one detail out – how much weight does the bulletproofing add to the books? As it is right now, I think some of the real thick ones already weigh 5-10 lbs..

It’s already heavy as all hell to carry around a bag full of textbooks – and that was when I was a senior in high school! Imagine an elementary kid.. esp. with no car, and likely no locker.

I can just see the complaints of back problems going up…

They’re moving the wrong way.. they need to put the textbooks on Flash memory cards, or have ruggedized low-end laptops (or some other suitable portable electronic device – maybe a good PDA?) for the kids – that way they can carry just one 5-8 lb. “book,” that contains all their books.

As far as the absurdium.. what are the chances that the kid will hold it up and block the bullet in the right place?

Also, if anyone’s ever done some serious reading about (or had experience with) bullet-resistant vests, they would know that while they prevent the bullet from piercing the body, they do little to reduce the forward momentum of the slug – thus, in a vest, you end up with significant blunt trauma.

Making the assumption that these alleged “bulletproof textbooks:”

1.) Actually will block the average handgun round (good luck blocking most long gun or submachine gun rounds – most of them move so fast, that they’ll defeat police body armor – and that’s not even getting into what armor-piercing ordinance can do), and

2.) Do not dissipate the forward momentum of the round, in the same way bullet-resistant vests do, then…

…the book will be shot right out of the little kid’s hands from the momentum. I doubt an adult could hold onto something getting shoved by that much force, much less a kid.

The revolver turns, the spring loads the next round, whatever… POP! No blocking this time.

This project has wasted $????????.??.
This post has wasted 20 minutes of my time.

EJ November 3, 2006 3:10 PM

Send the bulletproof textbooks to the troops in Iraq (who need more armor) and, according to John Kerry’s flub, you’ll solve two problems at once.

Ben K November 3, 2006 3:11 PM

IBM Canada at one point had some Kevlar backpacks made for employees. The point wasn’t to be bullet proof, but to have a soft-sided pack that could be locked and still provide some protection from unauthorized entry.

avery November 3, 2006 3:15 PM

I’m thinking about a video where news guy puts a chunk of bullet proof vest material over his leg and they shoot it with a .22 and he is overcome with an understanding of conservation of momentum. I find myself wondering if this guys idea actually save you if the bullet was heading for your head, or, if it would just make you less of a mess for someone else.

bob bobson November 3, 2006 3:25 PM

I heard a similar suggestion at least ten years ago. Kevlar clipboards for schoolkids… It was one of those pre-internet memes so I guess it just travelled by word of mouth, but no idea where it began.

Rainbow November 3, 2006 4:34 PM

by the way, Bruce, did you write Applied Cryptography bullet-proof? Up to which caliber? How about its successor, Practical Cryptography? 😉

An interesting question, how will the books be equipped? Will the book covers be made of kevlar (more lightweight) or of hardened steel (could have man-stopping effects against the attacker if thrown appropriately, is handy in every schoolyard argument, builds your muscles by simply going to school). But I’m worried about hollow charges – has anybody experience with reactive armour-plated book covers?

Roenigk November 3, 2006 4:34 PM

Perhaps we are looking at this all wrong. Let’s suppose the schools cannot afford to buy new textbooks for their students. This superintendent might be pretty sharp in having the Federal government buy every student in every school new books. Now, how could he interest DHS to get involved?

TomInOhio November 3, 2006 6:01 PM

Speaking as an Online Bookseller, I applaud this educator’s vision. Anything that will bring used book prices in line with bulletproof vest prices would be outstanding for my business.

quincunx November 3, 2006 6:19 PM

‘Does he really think this is a smart way to spend security dollars?’

If he wants to test his theory, let him fund and build his own school to test his theory. Talk is cheap.

Davi Ottenheimer November 3, 2006 9:17 PM

This is a real gem:

“‘Our experiment was as scientific as we could make it, just two or three people who had been in the military,’ says Crozier.”

I can only guess why this seemed like a good idea:

“Crozier, who is running for state superintendent, took to an open field near Minco to see if a text book could stop a bullet during a school shooting.”

Maybe he got tired of shooting at other things?

“He believes students could use the reading material while running away from an attacker.”

Maybe he’s just trying to convince kids to actually bring their books with them to school.

“‘The reason we are doing this experiment,’ he says, ‘is because there was a kid in Fort Gibson who was shot in the back but the bullet did not penetrate his textbook.'”

Reminds of someone I know who refused to wear seatbelts because a friend of hers survived a crash and the cops said “you would have died if you had your seatbelt on”. Naturally she went around telling everyone not to wear their seatbelt and naturally they all told her she was mistaking the exception for the rule.

“Using an assault rifle and various pistols, Crozier and his colleagues shot several textbooks in a home-made video.”

You know, I’m wondering whether he might just have been looking for a good reason why schools should spend money on textbooks. When things get tight in educational funds, just pull out the “saves children from being shot” argument…

Andrew November 3, 2006 11:07 PM

Just equip every student with a copy of Gunther & Sullivan’s “Constitutional Law”.

Not a bad idea. Someone should be reading it, if not the executive branch.

Look, if there’s a school shooting, what we’re gonna have is a bunch of scared people running from (one to three) armed crazy people. Setting up the campus to be partitioned into lockdown zones that you can’t easily get into or out of without power equipment seems like a much more sensible use of taxpayer dollars.

And we could have fences to keep unauthorized persons out, and students in. And cameras and metal detectors.

Wait a minute, we’ve just re-invented a hallowed American institution.

The prison.

Why don’t we just issue the students shanks and be done with it?

another_bruce November 4, 2006 12:15 PM

why stop with bulletproof textbooks? there’s a market niche for a kevlar jockstrap here.

Dave November 4, 2006 7:25 PM

I can see it now; man sued for text book failing to provide bullet proof protection. Upon school sign-up… Please sign this waiver if your book fails at it’s alternative duty to protect you.

Sam Brown November 5, 2006 1:22 AM

This might not be as bad an idea as it sounds, only because it could be so cheap and easy. One of the first bulletproof materials created was an armor made of woven and laminated strips of washi paper. If the process of making that material were industrialized, it might be cheap enough to substitute for the cardstock of existing hardbacks. I doubt any lives would be saved, but it might increase the durability of the coursebooks enough to justify the cost.

Jeremy Hendrickson November 5, 2006 7:31 AM

I live in Oklahoma and have heard his plan. He wants to stack old text books under desks for students to use as a shield if needed. Although on the radio he did mention possibly covering the books with some sort of cover to help slow down the bullets. He actually has a video of himself shooting books with different guns as a demonstration.

Robert Merkel November 5, 2006 7:14 PM

Even the version of the plan where old textbooks are used as a shield is stupid.

Why is it stupid? Because having them there is going to constantly be scaring kids about the risk of being shot and killed.

Having our children constantly living in fear will do far, far more damage than the miniscule number of children who die tragically in shootings.

Jonathon November 5, 2006 8:59 PM

Just a suggestion, how about if they placed a bullseye, or target on the cover of the book this way any would be attacker would feel compelled to shoot at the middle of the textbook, or even better, install large electromagnets on the ceiling and remove all metalic objects from schools, this way when the gun is drawn it is quickly pulled from the attackers hand and attached to the cieling.

jayh November 6, 2006 10:31 AM

I live in Oklahoma and have heard his plan. He wants to stack old text books under desks for students to use as a shield if needed. Although on the radio he did mention possibly covering the books with some sort of cover to help slow down the bullets.

??? What is the senario? Attacker enters the room. Kids reach under desks and hold up books to stop bullets? Since a book at best covers only a small area, it seems like that poses little problem to an attacker.

Perhaps a few bucks spent on hardened lockable doors may provide some protection.

reub November 6, 2006 10:31 AM

Perhaps he viewed a recent episode of the Wire where a character uses books as armor to guard against a stabbing attack… The little-mentioned made for tv drama plot

Hoax Meister November 6, 2006 11:15 AM

I think this a great idea.

First, obviously the more armor the better for our schools. If it is impossible to know “is our children learning” algebra, we must take the responsibility to teach our children the basics of ballistics, body armor, and combat awareness. They will use these skills more in their future workplaces (i.e. Iraq, Iran, NK) than silly subjects like history or math.

Second, since many of the textbooks are not even read by today’s children (see: US rankings in science/math) why not create a new use for these books. Instead of modifying textbooks to have Kevlar, why not save time and money with a new procedure. Simply take various pieces of book-shaped Kevlar and stick various old-fashioned colorful labels on them such as “Chemistry” or “Geometry”. That way students would never be caught unawares actually using these “textbooks” and we could avoid the “user error” problem where people try to hide behind un-armored books instead of the up-armored science and math books.

I say full-speed ahead on this ambitious and important project.

Xellos November 6, 2006 12:02 PM

Hey, if we’re assuming the kids are going to be quick enough to use a standard-sized textbook as a shield against (proabably supersonic) bullets, let’s take it all the way. Instead of books, lets give all the kids special bracelets to use to deflect the bullets instead. That way they can be safe from school shooters, stylish, and even take the protection home.

Then we just need to give them all polygraph machines, er, magical lassoes of truth, and skimpy costumes.

Let’s hear it for education!

Filias Cupio November 6, 2006 6:38 PM

On a quick etymological side-track, he really is bullet-proofing textbooks. “Proof” originally means “test”, and “bullet proof armour” meant that the armour had deliberately been shot, demonstrating that the bullet did not penetrate.

solinym November 6, 2006 9:23 PM

Regarding the conservation of momentum:

The momentum is higher on the shooter than on impact, when it has lost momentum due to drag. Being shot does not usually knock people down. Usually people fall down because that’s what happens on the movies. Most people shot with handguns are plenty able to run right away, yet can easily arrive DOA at the hospital when they die from blood loss.

Conor94 November 13, 2006 8:14 AM

My 6th grade son just brought a note home from school that said all Anne Arundle County (MD) students will begin practice drills of what to do if an armed intruder enters their school. In the meantime, he continues to ride to school in a bus with no seatbelts and his school’s enrollment is way over what the fire marshal would allow in any other public building. It’s scary to think that these are the people we entrust with our children’s safety.

SFC Linam July 13, 2009 7:18 PM

I live in Oklahoma and we had to do the book on the head thing to protect us from tornado’s. It is really funny what we as a government do for our security. Hey, come visit me and leave a memo on one of my blogs at http://www.askthedrillsergeant.com
I will add your link if you add me. in good faith ill add it tonight.
Thank You
SFC Linam

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via https://michelf.ca/projects/php-markdown/extra/

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.