OK It's a crazy world, let's get that out in the open. The idea of equipping kids with body armor so they can go to and from school really should be outside the realm of "normal" life.
But it's not. We don't live in normal times, and things like giving kids highly bullet resistant items which weigh about as much as a bottle of water at a very reasonable cost is no longer a crazy idea. In fact manufacturers of inserts have had 200-300% sales increases in the last couple of years-spiking of course behind every major school shooting. A private school in Florida sold bulletproof backpack inserts on their website as school supplies last year. This year they are available online via Amazon, Walmart.com and Optics Planet. 90% of insert sales are estimated to be going to parents who have decided to take this small step to try and prevent a very bad day in the life of their child.
Adults are buying them too for hazardous commutes and travel in the rough spots of the U.S. and the world. They are effective shields that are always with you when carrying your fave backpack. You can wear it on your back, slip the pack and loops onto your chest, hold it up as a shield or even lie behind it.
The modern marvel of ballistic panel inserts, is the level of protection has gone up over the years and the price and weight have gone way down. You would not be burdening a child with several pounds of armor plate on top of books and laptop. Most inserts will fit quite nicely inside a laptop sleeve in a youth or adult backpack. and only add about a pound or two to the overall weight.
How does a high level of pistol rated protection weighing only 20 ounces for $119 sound? Once you get over the whole idea this a product you never want to "need" all of a sudden- but way better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it-then the price is pretty reasonable. The hardest part may be to get your kids to leave the insert alone or quit showing their friends and offering to trade it for video games.
What level of protection should you look for in a backpack insert? The National Institute of Justice provides a NIJ rating that should appear on any ballistic insert and seller's website you might consider. Parents and commuters generally want Level IIIA pistol level protection. Protection levels expire about every five years (marked on the product) so don't purchase used bullet resistant items on line-get new manufacture.
Level IIIA will defeat all pistol calibers. If you want rifle rated Level III and Level IV armor, the plates get much heavier for everyday carry-OK if you are in a war zone, but stuffing one or two ten pound rifle rated plates in your daily commuter bag just isn't going to be easy to carry-and seriously if it's that bad where you are going maybe you need to rethink the whole trip thing anyway!.
Ratings Level II armor protects against 9mm and .357 magnum pistols. Level IIIA protects against penetration from 9mm, .357 magnum, .40, .45, .357 Sig and even .44 Magnum. Level III is rated for rifles like 7.62×39 and 5.56mm and Level IV is rifle rated to most rifle rounds shy of the .50 Browning.
AR500 makes armor panels and carriers for police/military/security personnel and has branched into backpack insert panels with an 11"x15" Level IIIA soft body armor insert which is only .43" wide and 1.6 lbs (yes that is 22 ounces!) for $129. Demand is high, so you may have to wait for your order to be built and shipped.
If you happen to need rifle rated armor inserts, AR500 sells a Level III + 9.5"x13" panel that is only a quarter inch thick that will stop rifle rounds to include .380 Win available for $125. It fits in backpacks and laptop cases, but being rifle rated it weighs 8 lbs.
Fortified Protection Gear sells a Level IIIA 11"x14" backpack insert made of Kevlar and weighing only 1 lb for $126. They have a 10"x12" smaller version for $113 which weighs even less than a pound.
Tuffy Pads markets their 12" x 16" Level IIIA rated insert at only 24 ounces and .45" wide for $129 and offer a 11"x14" model weighing 20 ounces-yes the weight of a Dasani bottle of water for $119.
Bulletblocker.com sells a line of bullet resistant clothing that is quite interesting in addition to backpack inserts in a variety of sizes from $99 8.5"x12" to 12"x16" for $175. They are as light as 10 ounces and only 1/4" wide. They also have some nifty three ring binder Level IIIA inserts for $99, tablet case inserts for $99 and most interesting of all, they will custom build a panel for your favorite bag or briefcase etc for $199.
Guarddog-Security.com sells complete backpacks with single insert Level IIIA panels already fitted in the bag. They have several sizes and colors suitable for both adults and kids and even have RFID blocker pockets on them for world travellers. Prices come in between $150-$190 via their website or via Amazon.com